SAN DIEGO (AP) — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday commuted the manslaughter sentence of the son of California’s former Assembly speaker, drawing criticism from the victim’s family.

The outgoing governor also granted clemency to a woman who killed her former pimp in a motel room when she was 16.

The moves come just hours before Schwarzenegger is scheduled to leave office on Monday.

Schwarzenegger said he believed the 16-year prison sentence that Esteban Nunez was serving was “excessive” in reducing his sentence from 16 years to seven years.

Nunez is the son of Fabian Nunez, a Democrat who served as Assembly speaker — one of the most powerful political leadership positions in the state — from 2004 to 2008.

Nunez pleaded guilty in May to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon for his role in a fight that killed a 22-year-old man near San Diego State University in 2008.

Prosecutors said Nunez and friends went looking for a fight after they were refused entry to a fraternity party. Defense attorney Brad Patton said the men acted in self-defense after getting into a fight with the victim as they left the party.

The governor’s commutation documents point out that Nunez received the same sentence as co-defendant Ryan Jett, despite the court acknowledging that Jett was the person who actually stabbed and killed Luis Dos Santos, and that Jett had a significant criminal record while Nunez had none.

“He was not the actual killer. But despite the evidence that Jett was a leader and instigator in the offense, and that he stabbed and killed Santos, the court sentenced Nunez to the same maximum prison sentence as Jett,” the governor said in the order.

“Considering Nunez’s limited role in the killing and his clean prior criminal record, I believe his sentence is disproportionate in comparison to Jett’s.”

Fred Santos, the victim’s father, criticized the commutation, saying that Nunez was no less responsible than the other defendants for his son’s death, and got special treatment because his father is close to the governor.

“The courts agreed this was a correct sentence, so they decided to go the political route,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Concord.

“They think they can act with impunity, that they are privileged, and of course Arnold just proved they are,” he said.

The Santos family learned about the decision when a reporter called to ask about it.

“I think it was very sneaky,” said Kathy Santos, the victim’s mother.

Paul Levikow, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney’s office, had no comment Sunday night.

The governor also granted clemency to Sara Kruzan, who was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the 1994 shooting death of George Gilbert Howard. Schwarzenegger reduced her sentence to 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors said Kruzan was no longer working for Howard when she killed him. Her clemency petition cited years of abuse and psychiatric reports saying she suffered from battered women’s syndrome.

Sen. Leland Yee, who advocated for Kruzan, said she had turned her life around in prison and could be a role model for abused kids if released. Her case was the centerpiece of Yee’s failed bill to allow reduction of life sentences for minors.

Schwarzenegger also issued seven pardons, one conditional pardon and one other commutation late Sunday.

Democrat Jerry Brown is scheduled to be sworn in as governor Monday morning.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (29)
  1. MLParlante says:

    This is total Repug b.s. You do the crime and you pay the price. Period. No exceptions for the politico connection(s).

    1. Stephanie Marty says:

      man to much favortizome!

  2. Anita says:

    BTW if he was just some random punk you would not have done this.

  3. Bonnie M Gordon says:

    This is so much like Schwarzenegger!! He shortens Sarah Kruzan’s sentence to 25 to life, leaves Kevin Cooper to hang and gives his political buddy’s kid a slide!! We have Third Strikers serving 25 to life for misdemeanors flipped to felonies, just so we can put another human being behind bars, but this guy goes looking for a fight, tells his friends not to worry, cause his daddy will take care of things and what do you know……he was right!! Absolutely sickening!!

    1. MLParlante says:


  4. Musicdorian says:

    I would ask if young Nunes was packin’ a gun on the night that the 22 year old was killed. If Nunez went to a party with a gun, then the Governor is clearly playing favorites with daddy’s boy.

  5. Scordovnao says:

    This is just wrong. If you do the crime you should have to pay the price no matter who you are or related to

  6. Musicdorian says:

    Maybe, now, young Nunez can go to work for the Mexican drug cartels, when he gets out !!

  7. Laurie says:

    Ya think? No wonder His Idiotness waited till he was out the door.

  8. TJ says:


  9. midasmicah says:

    Arnie doesn’t give a hoot about justice. This is just a back handed slap to our faces on his way out. Just a high ranking gutter rat.

  10. grapevine says:

    well well so tough on crime guy gets away with murder under Schwarzenegger’s watch, wow, now we know what Schwarzenegger is like. Facts point to it.

  11. jrich says:

    so as long as he’s been in office, that sentence was the only one he has said the judge gave to much time. whats about the bart cop that killed an innocent man while in handcuffs not resisting arrest and all the money it cost the city of oakland and alameda county. He got lest than two years w/ 1 yr and half time served, he’ll be out by the summer if not less.

    just another of the rich protecting the rich. things like this why the people and government is on the verge of a revolution.

    so, nobody else case in the last 6 yrs seemed unjust arnold.

    1. tired of O.G. says:

      Shut up about Oscar Grant already, he was a parolee punk who wasn’t home with his kid he loved so much. He wasn’t innocent, or in handcuffs. Stupid ignorant people!

  12. Are You Kidding says:

    Dang. It must be nice to be so well connected that your crimes basically go unpunished. My question is, Mr. Governor: How are you going to explain the free-pass you just gave to your armpit sniffer’s kid, to the family of the young man whose life he carelessly took?

  13. parolee says:

    The USA has more prisons than walmarts. Mandatory sentacing is wrong. It cost us billions of $ every year.

    1. MLParlante says:

      A life was lost, Dum-bo Idiot …. when were you paroled (er, the last time)? Loser.

  14. Balaamx says:

    mexican cartels= sellers, money makers, opportunities
    us people= consumers, losers, pot#$%&^%^

  15. ALLEN says:

    We should boycott Arnie, for the rest of his life.

  16. M says:

    California at its best!!!! I’m sure we will be able to sustain as a society/economy, we are completely in control. Just keep sending liberals (yes, Arnold is a liberal even if he has a “R” next to his name) to “lead” this state.

  17. reader says:

    Guberner Shriver comes thru again for the Kennedy clan. Call the pony Macaroni!

  18. Sorry I Voted For Him says:

    My heart goes out to the Santos family. I pray that they can take some comfort in the fact that there is a lot of people out here that are very angry about this action. We will not forget. If Schwarzenegger decides to run for another political office this will be used against him. He has been a terrible govenor and this was the worst decision of all.

  19. Zzzzz says:

    Don”t second guess an operation while sitting there in your armchair.
    Oh, by the way, welcome to the “good ol boys network.”

  20. Jean Johansen says:

    It’s too bad Arnie couldn’t commute the “death sentence” that Santos received at the hands of these rotten, spoiled men. Nunez bragged his father would get then off and he did!
    The political climate in California is like the Mafia Family. Cheats and crooks running things.

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