Kathy and Fred Santos, the parents of Luis Santos, discuss a Sacramento… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
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.
San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis had filed suit to have the sentence reduction overturned, arguing that Schwarzenegger violated the law by not notifying prosecutors or victims' families while he was considering the reduction.
"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 County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly said that Schwarzenegger's decision, while "distasteful and repugnant," was within the governor's authority and did not violate the Victims' Bill of Rights. Fabian Nuñez was a political ally of Schwarzenegger.
Esteban Nuñez was 19 when he and three friends brawled with a group of college students after Nuñez and his companions had been turned away from a fraternity party outside San Diego State University. In the melee, Luis Santos, 22, was fatally stabbed by one of Nuñez's friends, Ryan Jett, testimony showed.
Under a plea agreement, Nuñez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon for stabbing other combatants during the fight. Jett admitted wielding the knife that killed Santos; he and 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, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing.
Esteban Nuñez's attorney argued to the governor that it was unfair to sentence him to the same number of years as Jett. Nuñez entered prison in June 2010.