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

January 6, 2011 |  3:10 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sidestepped questions on Wednesday from reporters who asked if he agreed with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent decision to reduce the prison sentence of 21-year-old Esteban Nuñez, son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

Villaraigosa called the case, in which Esteban Nuñez pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2008 stabbing death of a San Diego man, a “tragedy all the way around.” The mayor, who has been a close ally of Schwarzenegger and Fabian Nuñez, also said that “everybody recognizes that when you lose a son, that’s a horrible thing.”

He would not say, however, whether Schwarzenegger did the right thing in cutting the sentence from 16 to 7 years.

“What I’ve said very clearly is that it’s a tragic situation, and that’s all I have to say about it,” he told a roomful of reporters gathered to hear  him celebrate a 7% citywide drop in major crimes last year.

Villaraigosa was one of several high-level officials, along with Los Angeles labor leader Maria Elena Durazo and state Sen. Kevin De Leon, (D-Los Angeles), to write letters on behalf of Esteban Nuñez before a bail reduction hearing two years ago. In his letter, Villaraigosa described Esteban Nuñez as a “decent and responsible young man.”

Schwarzenegger’s decision has drawn protests from some in law enforcement, including San Diego Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis, who said the decision "greatly diminishes justice."

In his commutation order, Schwarzenegger noted it was Ryan Jett, Esteban Nuñez’s friend, who stabbed 22-year-old Luis Santos, severing his heart. In that order, he also noted that after the stabbing, the group went to the Sacramento River, burned their clothes and threw their knives in the river.

Standing next to Police Chief Charlie Beck, Villaraigosa also told reporters that he had not personally spoken with Schwarzenegger about the commutation.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall