Nunez, victim's family argue over son's commutation

July 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was a war of words outside a Sacramento courtroom today.

Former State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez says the legal effort to reinstate his son's manslaughter sentence is a waste of taxpayer money. However, the victim's family says if the sentence is not reinstated, there will be no justice.

The victim's family is suing the state and the governor in hopes of reinstating Nunez's longer, original sentence. That case is now winding its way through the courts, and that's where the victim's family and Nunez spoke with reporters Monday.

"They picked on my son from day one, and he's not a victim," Nunez said. "I've said all along, he should pay for his involvement and what he did, but there are two other young men walking the streets today who were involved in this case, just as my son was, and there's no outcry against them."

Esteban Nunez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years, but the day before former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger left office, he commuted the sentence to seven years.

The parents of Luis Santos say they were not notified, and now they're suing the governor saying he violated a victim's rights law that is a constitutional amendment.

Nunez insists no law was violated and his son's sentence was driven by the political ambitions of the district attorney assigned the case.

"You add up an overzealous district attorney with a judge in San Diego who represented that my son would get a much lower sentence and then went back on his word," Nunez said. "That's why we are where we are."

The Santos family believes the commutation was a political favor. Schwarzenegger has said he understands their anger but "of course, you help a friend."

"There is law in this country, and that's what we're fighting for," Fred Santos said, "that the rule of law should rule, not dirty politicians making deals in the backroom away from everybody's scrutiny."

Mom Kathy Santos said she's sad to think about the way her son died.

"It was so violent and now I feel he was stabbed in the back by politicians after his death and I think that they completely disrespected him and they've disrespected our family and we want justice back," Kathy Santos said.

The state attorney general's office is asking the judge to throw out the suit against the state and Schwarzenegger. She has issued a tentative ruling in favor of continuing the case against the attorney general's office. The next court date is Aug. 4. There was no reaction from Schwarzenegger Monday.

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