Family Outraged By Ex-Gov's Sentencing Move

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCSanDiego

    There's heavy criticism over a last-minute decision the governor made on his last day in office.
     
    On Sunday, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he was shortening the prison sentence of Esteban Nunez, the son of former assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, a political colleague Schwarzenegger worked closely with.

    The tragedy started in 2008, during a knife fight that killed 22-year old Mesa College student Luis Santos. 

    Witness: Nunez Confessed to Stabbing Victim

    [DGO] Witness: Nunez Confessed to Stabbing Victim
    According to testimony, the son of former state assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, admitted using a knife during a fatal brawl.

    Esteban Nunez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. In June 2010, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the role he played in the murder, but the former governor reduced his sentence by more than half.

    Now the victim's family says it is outraged and shocked by the shorter sentence. 

    "I think it's absolutely despicable," said the victim's mother, Cathy Santos. "I think it's a huge injustice to our son."

    Schwarzenegger reduced Nunez's sentence to seven years, arguing that the original sentence was "excessive," especially since Nunez didn't have any criminal history. He also mentioned that it was unjust for Nunez to serve the full sentence, when another co-defendant, Ryan Jett, inflicted the fatal wounds that killed Santos. Jett was also given a 16-year sentence.

    The victim's father said the former governor's decision is morally wrong.

    "The justice system did not fail us, but the political system did," said Fred Santos. "Political favoritism is alive and well in Sacramento. Bottom line: [Nunez] pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges."

    The Santos family said it never got a call from Sacramento and didn't even know a commutation was being considered. The couple said it learned about the decision through the media. They said that the outcome undermines their faith in the criminal-justice system.

    "[It seems] the courts don't mean a thing," Cathy said. "It sends out the message that back-door deals are fine."
     
    San Diego County district attorney Bonnie Dumanis issued the following statement about the latest development:

    "We are shocked to hear of the governor's last-minute commutation, which greatly diminishes justice for victim Luis Santos and re-victimizes his family and friends. The district attorney's office was not consulted, and the decision comes as the appeals process was continuing."

    Those same sentiments were echoed by San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith, a former superior court judge.

    "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the sentence by over half to help his political crony's son," said Goldsmith. "In doing so, he undermined the judicial system and has jeopardized public safety."

    Nunez may only have to serve 85 percent of his seven-year sentence.