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Schwarzenegger commutes sentence of Speaker’s son

Outbound California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 11, 2010.
Outbound California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 11, 2010.
Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images

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Just before leaving office, Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the sentence of a 22 year old man sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the stabbing death of Luis Dos Santos, a Mesa College student. Outgoing Governors often issue last minute pardons, but what makes this case complicated is that the young man is Esteban Nunez, son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Although Nunez participated in the fight that killed Santos, he didn’t inflict the fatal wound, prompting Schwarzenegger to cut his sentence to 7 years. Fred Santos, the victim’s father, is outraged but what he says was a backroom deal by Schwarzenegger. How common are pardons of this nature? Was Schwarzenegger out of line in reducing this sentence? Did his relationship with Fabian Nunez play into this? Did the judge get carried away in his sentencing of a young man with no prior criminal record?


Laurie L. Levenson, Professor of Law, Loyola Law School