Arnold Schwarzenegger says he understands the anger over reducing a prison sentence for the son of a political ally, but said he feels “good” about the decision in his first public comment on the commutation, according to Newsweek.
“I understand people’s disappointments. I understand the parents’ anger. I would probably feel the same way,” Schwarzenegger told Newsweek.
Esteban Nunez, son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, pleaded guilty for his role in the 2008 stabbing death of San Diego Mesa College student Luis Santos, 22.
Schwarzenegger cut Nunez’ sentence from 16 years to 7 years. He made the call during the last minutes of his term and did not notify either party before deciding.
The former California governor admitted to Newsweek that his office made a mistake in not notifying the parents beforehand.
“And I’m ultimately responsible.” But, Schwarzenegger added, “I feel good about the decision … I happen to know the kid really well. I don’t apologize about it.”
Esteban Nunez and others were convicted in the stabbing death of Santos, a business student at San Diego's Mesa College. Prosecutors say Nunez and his friends from Sacramento were upset about being kicked out of a fraternity party, had been drinking alcohol and were seeking revenge when they encountered a group of unarmed students that included Santos.
Three others were injured in the attack on the campus of San Diego State University, including two people stabbed by Esteban Nunez. The group then fled to Sacramento, where prosecutors say they hid and destroyed evidence.
Santos’ parents, Fred and Kathy Santos, filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court asking the court to restore the 16-year sentence.
“It wasn’t surprising to me, his comments, although they were outrageous and show how insensitive and arrogant he really is,” said Fred Santos on Tuesday. “He knew how we would feel. He knew how angry people would be, however he didn’t care.”
Schwarzenegger's action also has prompted a number of bills seeking to reduce the governor's clemency powers or ensure that victims' families are notified before such decisions are made public.
“There’s criticism out there. I think it’s just because of our working relationship and all that. It maybe was kind of saying, ‘That’s why he did it.’ Well, hello! I mean, of course you help a friend,” Schwarzenegger told Newsweek.
Fred Santos says there is no justification for the commutation.
“He did a political favor to his friend and now in this article, in this interview, he’s admitting that hello, you do a friend a favor, and that’s exactly what he did,” said Santos.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis says her office was blindsided by Schwarzenegger's decision.
On Tuesday Dumanis had two words about Schwarzenegger's comments.
"I'm speechless," she said.