Schwarzenegger to Face Combined Lawsuits

DA: Ex-governor's commutation "slashed justice"

Thursday, Aug 4, 2011  |  Updated 4:03 PM PDT
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DA Picked on My Son: Nunez

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Schwarzenegger Sued for "Despicable Thing"

Kathy Santos, mother of Luis Santos, says her son was stabbed in the back by politicians after former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, on his final day of office, reduced one of her son's killers' sentencs. Estaban Nunez is the son of Schwarzenegger's friend, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.

DA Picked on My Son: Nunez

Esteban Nunez, son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, pleaded guilty in the stabbing death of Mesa College student Luis Santos. After a San Diego judge sentenced Nunez to 16 years, former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted the sentence. As the Santos family fights to have that commutation overturned, Nunez told reporters outside court that his son was the target of a publicity-seeking district attorney. Tony Shin reports.
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A judge on Thursday upheld a ruling that combines two lawsuits seeking to reinstate the full manslaughter sentence of the son of a former state Assembly speaker.

The lawsuits claim former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger violated voter-approved Marsy's Law when he failed to notify victims' families that he was cutting the sentence of Esteban Nunez from 16 years to seven.

Schwarzenegger issued the commutation hours before he left office in January and just months after the sentencing of Nunez, the son of the governor's political ally, Fabian Nunez.

Esteban Nunez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a 2008 attack on an unarmed group of young men after Nunez and some friends were turned away from a fraternity party. Three others pleaded guilty to various charges in the attack that killed 22-year-old Luis Santos.

San Diego County prosecutors had sought to keep the lawsuits separate and have the county's case heard in San Diego. They argued that the community was wronged and the three surviving victims of the knife attack live there.

Prosecutors also were not notified in advance of Schwarzenegger's decision.

"That's where the tip of the governor's sword slashed away at justice," Deputy District Attorney Laura Tanney argued in court.

Superior Court Judge Laurie Earl said the lawsuits are based on similar arguments and thus should be combined. Since the Santos family's lawsuit is further along in Sacramento, both cases will be heard there, the judge ruled.

The Santos family said they had no preference about which court would hear the cases.

"We did not file a lawsuit to find convenience in our life. We filed a lawsuit to seek justice for our son, Luis," Fred Santos, the victim's father, said outside court.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is running for mayor of San Diego, but Tanney said the DA's request to stage the case there had no relation to the mayoral race. Tanney said there are political implications no matter where it is heard because of who is involved.

The state attorney general's office is defending the lawsuits on behalf of the former governor and sought to keep the case in Sacramento.

The next hearing in the case was scheduled for Oct. 13.

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