Schwarzenegger cuts Nunez’ son’s prison term

Arnold Schwarzenegger on his last day as California’s governor has commuted the state prison sentence of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’ son, who was involved in a fatal stabbing in 2008 near San Diego State University.

Esteban Nunez was serving a 16-year term in connection with the death of Luis Dos Santos.

“Santos’s death is tragic, and I do not discount the gravity of the offense. But given Nunez’s limited role in Santos’s death, and considering that, unlike (Ryan) Jett, Nunez had no criminal record prior to this offense, I believe Nunez’s sentence is excessive,” the governor wrote. “Accordingly, I commute Nunez’s sentence to the lower term for the crimes for which he was convicted: seven years in State prison.”

The commutation cites Nunez’ probation report in noting that he and his friends had been drinking and were turned away from a fraternity party before Jett picked a fight with Santos and Brandon Scheerer. “Not surprisingly, there are different versions of the fight. However, the following key facts are not in dispute: During the fight, Jett stabbed Santos once through the chest, severing his heart,” the commutation says, noting Nunez admitted to stabbing someone else in the stomach; Nunez, Jett and their friends then fled to Sacramento, where they burned their clothes and threw their knives in the Sacramento River.

Nunez, then 19 and with no previous record, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter with the use of a knife, as well as to assaulting and inflicting great bodily injury upon two other people; he was sentenced to a total of 16 years in state prison. Nunez applied for a commutation of his sentence on the ground that his sentence is disproportionate in comparison to the sentence for Jett, who actually inflicted the mortal wound upon Santos.

“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. The lower terms for voluntary manslaughter (three years) and assault with a deadly weapon (two years each) would be more appropriate in light of these differences,” Schwarzenegger wrote.

UPDATE @ 5:50 P.M. MONDAY: Lots more on this today here.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Josh, you didn’t mention Schwarzenegger is a lame duck.

  • Bryan Henderson

    Isn’t that what the first sentence says?

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    I’m just pointing out that ducks have 2 feet, and either the left or right one can be lame.

  • Josh Richman

    Click here for a fuller report, including comment from Santos’ family.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    I read the updated report in today’s print Contra Costa Times, pages AA1 – AA2. Santos’s Dad, Fred lives in Concord.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    No. 5: What’s it all about, Ralphie?

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Has young Nunez been sent on vacation? Prison, folks, is intended to isolate persons who are clearly dangerous to the safety of other persons. Punishment, as a form of society’s revenge, should be used sparingly. Locking up well-known people, to demonstrate “no one is above the law,” makes good publicity for the prosecutors but seldom renders justice. Does anyone think a 16-yr sentence will make Nunez less dangerous when he is released?

  • Pat

    Schwarzenegger disregarded the facts of the case. Nunez is a gang member, he was carrying a knife, which he used, in order to injure those who refused to let him in the party.

    He was not “broken up” about what he did, he had no remorse, his attention was on getting rid of evidence, and boasting that he would get off, with Dad’s help, by pleading self-defense.

    Schwarzenegger said he had “limited” participation and no record. He was engaged with the killing of Santos. He stabbed two others also. He probably has no record because he has gotten away with “murder” as the son of Fabian

    This should be a big problem for Schwarzenegger. This commutation should be overturned. Disgusting.

  • John W

    Re #7 RR

    Concur with RR about the purpose of prison. Prison or other forms of “punishment” should be all about protecting the public — by isolating dangerous types, by deterring crimes in the first place or by making victims whole when financial losses are involved. Revenge, in my opinion, should have nothing to do with it; which is why I oppose the ritual of having family and friends weigh in on punishment at trials or parole hearings, or judges making big speeches rather than just imposing sentence. People are tried for crimes against the state. In the Nunez case, I haven’t looked into the facts but understand that he was led to believe that he would get a shorter sentence in return for a guilty plea. Of course, if Nunez gets into trouble again, Arnold’s decision won’t look very good.

  • Elwood

    “Does anyone think a 16-yr sentence will make Nunez less dangerous when he is released?”

    Probably not, but it would ensure that for 16 years the next person he stabbed would be another con. 16 years in the joint is about right for a gang banger who used a knife to settle a minor dispute.

    Arnold is a POS.

    What a bozo.

  • bonnie

    TAKEN FOR FOOLS. Arnold, Esteban Nunez stabbed 2 other people who
    were fortunate enought to live to tell their story, again he
    stabbed 2 other people, again Esteban Nunez stabbed 2 other people
    and did not call 911 for assistance, or call his mommy or daddy to
    help him out of this situation, he stabbed 2 other people and is
    guilty, responsible and a strong team player in hurting innocent
    people! Esteban Nunez must remain behind bars to protect the
    American People from future harm!

  • John W

    Re: #10 Elwood

    I started out keeping an open mind on this one, thinking there might be more to the story than just the headline. Upon reflection, I find myself in the exceedingly uncomfortable position of agreeing with Elwood.