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

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

 
Comments () | Archives (66)

I think that our state Supreme Court should change the law so the governor cannot commute a sentence. You might agree, unless you fear that our Supreme Court will one day become retrobate and the governor's commutation would be the only way to preserve justice.

ohhhh Awwwwnold....what were you thinking? Apparently this kid was going around telling his friends he wouldnt get in trouble because his dad would get him off....i guess since Awwwnold only commuted half his sentence he was only half right.

What a discrace....Nunez is scum and now Awwnold is forever attached to the scumm...give me a break...the dude stabbed someone outside a party...he was just lucky the one his friend stabbed is the one who died...what a bunch of scum bagss!!

Did anyone actually read the article it says that Nunez did not kill Santos that Ryan Jett did. So why should Nunez receive the same length of time-16years when Ryan Jett is the one who killed Nunez? It is terrible that Santos died but why should Nunez receive the same punishment that the killer received.

Gray Davis must be laughing his arse off... What a joke

I believe we all make mistakes and learn from them, maybe our no longer Governor may learn from the mistake he committed. Though nothing will ever repay back the time Nunez spent in there and what he went through without every knowing what was really going on

@Whiffed: Mr. Santos was interviewed on the local news (San Diego). This is NO money grab. The guy is unbelievably angry, as well he should be. This is all about the emotional hell he's been through and NOW the State's complete disregard for our criminal justice system. With the stroke of a pen the Governor un-did the hard and righteous work of a judge and jury. I hope Mr. Santos does take legal action. The Governor abused the office to grant a personal favor to a colleague and friend without any thought whatsoever for the victim or his family. I'd call on Jerry Brown to launch an investigation. I'm guess Gavin Newsom could make that happen. I hope they don't let this go... A.S. has always been an arrogant jerk and he needs to be called on it for once. I once saw him riding his bike down the street in Santa Monica with his bodyguard - NO helmet and he ran right through a red light... didn't look to his right or left... just blew through the light, following his bodyguard. Hubris and ignorance personified!

This commutation by Schwarzenegger is arguably the worst single atrocity, any governor has made. The victims rights have been violated and Californians statewide, are mad as hell.

Next time Schwarzenegger, Nunez, or Villaraigosa are promoted on TV, call the broadcasts and complain. Please do not promote those three, who abuse their political authority for their own personal gain.

I want to vomit when I see Schwarzenegger, Nunez, and Villaraigosa as they smoke cigars and rob regular citizens of justice.

In concern for the community, what would lowering a sentence for a person who was convicted for stabbing someone in the stomach cause? Arnold Schwarzenegger's compassion has gotten him disgrace from the people who once voted for him. Being compassionate is not the same as being just.

@Lou Bricano and Whitfield:

Please review the California Constitution, section 28, subsection (b) - it's commonly known as the "Victim's Bill of Rights". You can see a decently formatted version at:
http://ag.ca.gov/victimservices/content/bill_of_rights.php

I really don't see a cause of action for monetary damages, but rather a very interesting challenge to executive power. Last minute pardons and commutations are a centuries old power frequently, as here, abused for nefarious reasons. The DA in SD has talked, albeit in vauge terms, of seeking to overturn the commutation, and this may well be a part of that (I hope so), which would likely totally rule out a monetary aspect.

I hope that alters your impression of a father who is righteously outraged that his son's murderer was given a very suspicious gift by the bloody, crooked, 'roided Austrian (whom I sadly admit to having voted for).

@Rob:
Not quite accurate. The defendants agreed to a plea to a reduced crime,
and to let the judge impose the sentence. He gave them the max - and it's not unreasonable to think the judge might have done so because of the political aspect of who Nunez was. It was somewhat unusual, but I would tend to give the judge the benefit of the doubt on correctly imposing this sentence.

Our best hope is poor little esteban messes up in prison, and earns himself some more time.

Nunez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, a violent felony pursuant to Penal Code 667.5, meaning he will serve 85% of that sentence. Because he had minimal credits when he was sentenced, as he was out on bail, he would have served more than 13 years. Now, he will serve less than 6, in punk custody. This is political backroom dealing at its very worst. It has nothing to do with compassion. It is a shameful act by shameful politicians. I haven't seen one state legislator stand up for what's right here. Sacramento stinks.

The apology is completely insincere. Just another sign of how clueless Arnold was.

We have to boycott anything that Nunez or Schwartzenegger is in. Yes find out all the agency or company they are in and boycott whatever product or services that company offer. Start with where Nunez is MERCURY PUBLIC AFFAIRS.

I can't believe there are posters saying the Santos family are not victims. Just because the parents were not stabbed and killed by the punks, doesn't make them any less a victim of the crime. You try living the rest of your life without a loved one who was taken from you by a senseless act of violence committed by a spoiled brat punk and his buddies and tell me how you feel. The Santos family has every right to protest and pursue every means available to them including legal action to reverse this idiotic decision by the moron ex-governor. Even if it is a money grab, good for them. I'm sure the Santos family would trade any amount of money to have their son back. Whatever they can do to punish Nunez and Arnold, including getting money out of them, is good by me.

Arnold karma is a b#tch. I once admired you. I hope I am wrong.
I agree with Reader.

Arnold is a girlie man after all.

I have a hard time fathoming the shock and grief of losing a son to a murder. The phone rings in the middle of the night and a solemn stranger's voice says words that only can ring in your head while you try to grab hold and make sense of the horrible moment. But there must have been a sense of justice when the defendant accepted responsibility and took a plea deal for 16 years. Now that justice has been stolen by a thief wielding the Governor's power.

A quick search online, provides a few potential good rocks to sling:

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis wrote the following in statement e-mailed to Ed Walsh of the S.F. Examiner: "We were 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.”

The Petition for Executive Clemency itself, pursuant to Penal Code Sections 4804 provides:

At least 10 days before the Governor acts upon an application for a pardon, written notice of the intention to apply therefor, signed by the person applying, must be served upon the district attorney of the county where the conviction was had, and proof, by affidavit, of the service must be presented to the Governor.

So has District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis taken action to challenge the Governor's action?

If your outraged by this should you merely mumble under your breath or will you speak up and demand the justice taken from the Santos family and the law abiding people of our state? Should these papers like the LA TIMES do some substantive research and ask the hard questions of the officials so they are accountable to the duties of their office? Ask your state representatives, the new Attorney General, District Attorney Dumanis and Governor Brown to insure that the letter and the spirit of the law is followed. The phrase “Equal Justice Under Law” is engraved on the front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Equal justice for all is at the foundation of our legal system. We want all participants in the legal system to be treated fairly and impartially. Unfortunately,here in this instant case it's the night shovel of shrewd politicians digging at the foundation of justice that robs us.

An apology? Is our former governor admitting to a lapse in judgement?

As far as the victim's family is concerned, Arnold is just pouring gasoline on a fire. Saying sorry will not make everything better. This is not the movies.....

Shameful.

Blatant political favors.
I would think Arnold could find a better use for his commutations than out of control big wig's son. He was given a legal sentence by jury of his peers which our tax dollars paid for and Arnold threw that expense out the window along with judicial authority.
We're lucky he's out with judgment like this.

Judge RB> So right wealthy privileged people have the right to kill and murder and rape with impunity this is well know its just a little hard to accept when it is so blatantly out there!

Just shows what a douche Schwarznegger is. He should never be allowed to forget what he's done, and he should never again dream of holding public office. I hope the Santos family makes his life a constant series of reminders that he misused the power of the state to benefit people he knew at the expense of others.

Since the prosecuting district attorney's office was not properly notified prior to the commutation, hopefully this egregious act can be overturned in court.

Arnold Schwartzenegger is a major disappointment. He has no honor, no integrity, no conscience...the perfect politician. Cronyism straight up.

Schwarzenegger and Nunez are complete scumbags and will be remembered as such. They represent all that is wrong with government in California. I'm so gratified that both of these cowardly losers are no longer state employees. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

So the ex-Governor didn't think it fair that the young punk Nunez be given the same sentence. Wow! First off, just because the fellow that Nunez stabbed didn't die, it seems the same intent to kill was there. The exGov should have doubled Ryan Jett's sentence instead or better yet, give him the thumbs down death sentence, then his logic would have been better understood about those two receiving the same punishment. Instead his reduction of Nunez's sentence apparently shows his favoritism to until the end. What a terrible decision to end his awful attempt of leadership.

There are simple potheads sitting in prison for 6 years, basically taking up space in the system and you commute the sentence of a murderer??? He should've gave the residents of California an apology letter for the 6 or 8 years he spent screwing up this state.

This commutation by Schwarzenegger is arguably the worst single atrocity, any governor has committed. The victims rights have been violated and Californians statewide, are mad as hell.
Next time Schwarzenegger, Nunez, or Villaraigosa are promoted on TV, call the broadcasts and complain. Please do not promote those three, who abuse their political authority for their own personal gain.
I want to vomit when I see Schwarzenegger, Nunez, and Villaraigosa as they smoke cigars and rob regular citizens of justice.

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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