Family of Man Stabbed to Death Near SDSU Files Suit Against Schwarzenegger
The family of a college student fatally stabbing during a fight at San Diego State University filed suit today against former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who cut the prison sentence for one of the defendants from 16 to seven years.
The suit was filed in Sacramento Superior Court against Schwarzenegger and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation by the advocacy group Crime Victims United of California on behalf of the family of Luis Santos, a 22-year-old Mesa College student who was killed Oct. 4, 2008.
The lawsuit alleges Schwarzenegger violated the family's constitutional rights under Marsy's Law by illegally commuting the sentence for Esteban Nunez on the governor's last day in office.
Nunez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, was one of four men charged in Santos' death and pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault.
Defense attorney Brad Patton said Nunez's sentence was too harsh and Schwarzenegger's commutation corrected an injustice.
But Luis Santos' mother, Kathy -- who lives in Concord -- said Schwarzenegger's action was strictly a political act.
Schwarzenegger, in reducing Nunez's sentence, said the defendant should have received a lesser term than co-defendant Ryan Jett, whom prosecutors said inflicted the fatal wound.
Ryan pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Marsy's Law, passed by voters in 2008, gives crime victims greater rights to be involved in the cases that affect them, including being notified of sentencing and parole hearings.
The Santos family said it was never notified that Nunez's sentence was being commuted and found out via news reports.
According to the lawsuit, the early release of a prisoner duly sentenced in Superior Court in San Diego is in direct violation of the California Constitution and statutory authority.
The defendants' actions will jeopardize public safety and violates the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs as spelled out in Marsy's Law, the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs are seeking a judicial declaration that the commutation granted by Schwarzenegger, and to be enforced by CDCR, is unconstitutional and that neither can release Nunez from incarceration before he is legally discharged as required by his sentence, and as required under Marsy's Law and the California Constitution.