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Schwarzenegger sent apology letter to victim's family after commuting Esteban Nuñez's sentence

January 12, 2011 | 12:08 pm

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter of apology to the father of Luis Dos Santos after he commuted the prison sentence of the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

Santos was killed outside a party in San Diego in 2008, and Nuñez's son, Esteban Nuñez, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the slaying -- the same sentence given to Santos' killer.

Just hours before Schwarzenegger was set to leave office Jan. 2, he reduced Esteban' Nuñez's sentence by more than half.

"It is with heavy heart that I write to you in acknowledgment that my commutation of Esteban Nuñez  has caused you more pain," Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter dated Jan. 5 and posted on the KNX-AM (1070) website. "I recognize that the last-minute nature of my final acts as Governor provided you no notice, no time to prepare for or absorb the impact of this decision. For that I apologize."

Fred Santos told KNX he is considering taking legal action over the commuted sentence. He said he and his family were not warned about the impending commutation.

“Basically, we think that our constitutional rights as victims have been violated because we were not notified,” Santos told the station Wednesday.

The reduction of Esteban Nuñez’s sentence from 16 years to seven years, one of Schwarzenegger’s last acts before leaving office, sparked cries of dismay from prosecutors and accusations of cronyism by legal experts.

Santos said Schwarzenegger's letter did little to assuage his feelings.

“The context of the letter was to give some excuses ... we do not believe in the sincerity of his letter,” Santos told the station.

The decision to trim the sentence is "100% politics and nothing but," Santos said.

Fabian Nuñez grew close to Schwarzenegger while serving as speaker of the Assembly. The two worked to pass the state's landmark global-warming law, and Nuñez is now a business partner of the governor's chief political advisor at the consulting firm Mercury Public Affairs.

The stabbing took place in October 2008 after Esteban Nuñez and three friends had spent a night partying and drinking near San Diego State University. After the group was refused entry into a fraternity party, they set upon Santos, a student at San Diego Mesa College, and several other young men.

Although Nuñez did not stab Santos, he stabbed another young man in the stomach. Nuñez was sentenced to 16 years for his role in the brawl -- the same sentence given to Santos’ killer, Ryan Jett.

Schwarzenegger issued an executive order sealing the correspondence he had received on the Nunez commutation and all other clemency cases that had gone before him.

The move was unnecessary because unless a governor chooses to release the documents, all gubernatorial clemency records are sealed by law automatically for 25 years after a case is closed.

Santos said the action proved Schwarzenegger "knew what he was doing was wrong."

"He knew this was wrong and he wanted to keep it a secret," Santos said.

RELATED:

Fabian Nuñez gave Kindle to official at prison where son is serving sentence

Father 'outraged' Schwarzenegger reduced sentence of politician's son in murder case

Villaraigosa won't say if he backs Schwarzenegger's decision to cut prison time for Nuñez's son

-- Kate Linthicum

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