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Judge: Schwarzenegger within law in commuting Nuñez son's sentence

September 7, 2012 |  4:57 pm

A judge in Sacramento ruled Friday that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not violate the law when he reduced the prison sentence of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez's son for the 2008 stabbing death of a San Diego college student.

Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis had filed suit to have the sentence reduction overturned, arguing that Schwarzenegger violated the law by not notifying either prosecutors or the victims' families while he was considering the reduction request.

"Today's ruling will not deter our pursuit of justice on behalf of the victims' families," Dumanis said late Friday, "and our office will file an appeal."

In his final hours in office on Jan. 2, 2011, Schwarzenegger reduced Esteban Nuñez's sentence from 16 years to seven. An outraged Dumanis, whose office prosecuted Nuñez, said the decision diminished public respect for the justice system.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly said that Schwarzenegger's decision, while "distasteful and repugnant," did not violate the law called the Victims' Bill of Rights. Fabian Nuñez was a political ally of Schwarzenegger.

Esteban Nuñez was 19 when 22-year-old college student Luis Santos was fatally stabbed in a street brawl near San Diego State University. Nuñez and three friends have been drinking and were angry at being rebuffed when trying to crash a fraternity party. In their anger, they attacked Santos and his friends, testimony showed.

Under a plea bargain, Nuñez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. A co-defendant admitted wielding the knife that killed Santos; both Ryan Jett, who wielded the knife that stabbed Santos in the heart, and Esteban Nuñez were sentenced to 16 years.

Before they were arrested, Esteban Nuñez bragged to his friends that his politically powerful father would get them off if they were charged.

Esteban Nuñez's attorney argued to the governor that it was unfair to sentence him to the same number of years as Jett. Nunez enterred prison in June 2010.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Esteban Nuñez, left, and his father, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, at a 2009 hearing in San Diego. Credit: Associated Press