Sentence Reduction for Speaker's Son Draws Fire

By Lindsay Hood and Mark Heaslet
|  Monday, Jan 3, 2011  |  Updated 10:46 AM PDT
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Nunez Family Silent in Court

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decision to commute the prison sentence for the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has outraged some of the outgoing governor's critics, including a victim's father.

On his last day in office, Schwarzenegger shortened Esteban Nunez's sentence to seven years, saying he thought the 16-year sentence was excessive. The move came just hours before Schwarzenegger left office.

Nunez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon for his role in a fight that killed 22-year-old Luis Santos near San Diego State University in 2008.

The victim's father called the decision ridiculous and politically motivated.

"How many people do you have to kill before you're supposed to be sentenced?" wondered Fred Santos. "He's essentially telling everybody: 'If you've never committed a crime previously, go ahead and commit any crime you want. It's OK --  you should get the lightest sentence possible.' "

Santos said he always feared politics would interfere with justice. He criticized the governor for "not having the decency to contact the family."

Some San Diegans commenting on NBCSanDiego's Facebook page were vocal about the former governor's decision.

"He pleads guilty to killing someone, is given 16 years in jail, and that is too excessive?" Tom May wrote. "I don't believe in the death penalty, but I'm strongly for life in prison for all murders with very few exceptions, i.e. involuntary manslaughter. This was a political favor and reeks!"

"He pleaded 'guilty' for killing someone," Julie Salmons said. "He admitted his guilt. Why do we even bother with judges and jury pools, when a Gov. can just overturn anything with a swipe his pen? Meanwhile, the person he killed is still dead. This is so absolutely disgusting. I feel for the family of that murdered 22-year-old."

Prosecutors said during the killing was committed after Nunez and friends went looking for a fight after they were refused entry to a fraternity party.

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