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Schwarzenegger Ally’s Son To Be Freed From California Prison

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Associated Press

Former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, right, and his son Esteban Nunez, left, leave a hearing in Superior Court in San Diego, March 18, 2009.

The son of former California state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez will be freed from prison within days, prison officials said Friday, the result of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's much criticized 2011 decision to commute half the manslaughter sentence for his political ally's child.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Luis Patino said Esteban Nunez will be paroled within a week, though he wouldn't give the exact day for security reasons.

Nunez, now 27, entered prison in June 2010 to serve a 16-year sentence in the stabbing death of college student Luis Santos in San Diego. Schwarzenegger, on his last day in office in 2011, reduced the sentence to seven years.

Nunez is the son of Fabian Nunez, who was speaker of the state Assembly while Schwarzenegger was governor.

Neither Schwarzenegger nor Nunez responded requests for comment.

Schwarzenegger said at the time that he acted because he thought the 16-year sentence was excessive, but he also acknowledged he was helping a friend.

"It just shows that the victims weren't even a part of his thought process and I found that very offensive," said Nina Salarno, president of Crime Victims United. The organization helped represent the victim's parents, Frederico and Kathy Santos.

They and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis sued in a failed bid to overturn the shortened sentence.

"Two politicians were basically able to get one of their sons off the hook for murder? How is that even allowed?" Kathy Santos said Friday.

Dumanis' spokesman, Steve Walker, said in a statement that with the impending release, the victims "once again feel the sting of a travesty of justice at the hands of former Governor Schwarzenegger."

The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento last year upheld Schwarzenegger's power to reduce the sentence, even as justices variously said the sentence reduction could be viewed as "reprehensible" and "grossly unjust."

The state Supreme Court has not yet said if it will consider an appeal of that ruling, Salarno said.

Santos was a student at San Diego's Mesa College when he was killed in October 2008. He died during a confrontation with Nunez and his friends after they were turned away from a party near the San Diego State University campus.

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