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Fathers exchange angry comments after latest hearing in Nunez stabbing case [Updated]

July 11, 2011 |  1:07 pm

Photo: Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, talks to reporters after the first hearing in a lawsuit against the state of California and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for reducing the manslaughter sentence for Nunez's son. He was one of the men convicted in the 2008 slaying of a 22-year-old college student. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press The fathers of both victim and attacker expressed anger Monday after a court hearing in Sacramento over the reduced prison sentence given to the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez in the stabbing death of a San Diego college student.

Fabian Nunez told reporters that San Diego Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis was seeking to overturn former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's reduction of his son's sentence as a way to further her political career. Dumanis is running for San Diego mayor.

Nunez said his son, Esteban Nunez, had been targeted for prosecution from the beginning because of politics.

Fred Santos, the father of stabbing victim Luis Santos, said it was Nunez and Schwarzenegger who injected politics into the case. "Politics threw away justice," he said.

The comments by the two men came after a hearing in Sacramento Superior Court over a lawsuit filed by the Santos family seeking to overturn Schwarzenegger's decision to reduce Esteban Nunez's sentence to seven years from 16 years in the October 2008 slaying.

The lawsuit alleges that Schwarzenegger's decision, announced in his final hours in office, violated a "victim's rights" law meant to allow families of crime victims to express their views before sentencing. Neither the Santos family nor prosecutors were alerted that Schwarzenegger was reviewing the Nunez sentence.

The state attorney general's office is seeking to have the lawsuit tossed out on the grounds that the governor's power to reduce sentences carries no requirement to alert victims' families or prosecutors. The issue is set to return to court Aug. 4.

Dumanis has supported the Santos lawsuit and announced she plans her own legal action.

Esteban Nunez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault charges in exchange for murder charges being dropped. He and three co-defendants attacked Santos after a night of partying and drinking near San Diego State University, according to court documents.

Nunez's family and attorneys assert that Esteban Nunez was treated unfairly by the judge, who gave him the same maximum sentence as the co-defendant who admitted plunging the knife into Santos' heart during the fight. His father says the judge broke his promise to give his son a lesser sentence if he pleaded guilty.

Nunez and Schwarzenegger, although members of different parties, were often political allies during their time in office. This has led Fred Santos and others to assert that Esteban Nunez received preferential treatment by the then-governor.

[Updated at 2:25 p.m.: In a written statement, Dumanis rejected Nunez's allegation that politics influenced her actions in the case. "The D.A.'s office makes prosecutorial decisions based on the evidence and the law, treating defendants the same regardless of who they may be related to," Dumanis said. "Unfortunately, the governor didn't do the same, and his last-minute commutation greatly diminished justice and outraged the community. We're trying to right that wrong."]


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Photo: Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez talks to reporters after Monday's hearing in a lawsuit against the state and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for reducing the manslaughter sentence of Nunez's son in the 2008 stabbing death of a 22-year-old college student. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press