The Gift After The Nunez Deal

Katy Grimes: Once again calling into question Governor Schwarzenegger’s strange agenda, today as part of his final hours in office, he commuted the manslaughter sentence of Esteban Núñez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez from 16 years to seven.

This was no boys-will-be-boys crime.

Nunez, 21, and three college-aged friends, Ryan Jett, 24, Leshanor Thomas, 21, and Rafael Garcia, 20, were charged in the killing of Luis Dos Santos. Nunez and his friends jumped and stabbed a group of Mesa College students in front of a San Diego State University gym in 2008, after they were turned away from a fraternity party, investigators reported.

After a night of heavy drinking, Nunez and his friends directed their anger at Santos after being rejected from the party. According to court documents, Nunez later bragged to his friends that his father, a prominent Democrat Legislator from Los Angeles, would use all of his influence to keep them from facing charges.

At the trial, witnesses reported that Nunez and friends were angry after being denied enternce to the party, and roamed around the SDSU campus “looking for trouble,” eventually confronting Santos and his friends to a fight near the gym. Three of the victims were stabbed, and Santos died.

Garcia, the son of an administrative law judge with the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, agreed to testify against the three other co-defendents, and pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to destroy evidence, including a bloody shirt. In exchange, prosecutors dropped a murder charge against him.

It was reported that after the fight, the young men drove back to Sacramento to the Sacramento River, and Nuñez, Jett and Garcia where Nuñez placed a plastic bag on the ground that containing the clothing, while Jett doused it with gasoline and set it on fire. Prosecutors said the men threw the knives into the water.

Ryan Jett, 24, and Esteban Nuñez, 21, were sentenced to 16 years in prison. Rafael Garcia, 20, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to destroy evidence and received a prison sentence of up to three years. Leshanor Thomas, 21, pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to four years and eight months.

I am assuming that the family of Luis Santos is not happy with Schwarzenegger right now. I hope that despite the pain this obviously dredges up for them, they expose the sanctimonious hypocrisy of this particular commutation.

Nunez appears to have received special treatment throughout the ordeal – he did not plead guilty until the night before the trial. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped a murder charge.

Nunez already received a gift from the state in the form of the voluntary manslaughter charge – he should serve his entire 16-year sentence. And it’s difficult to not ask why the young men from well-connected families only received manslaughter, assault and weapons charges. Schwarzenegger’s commutation of Esteban Nunez’s sentence only rubs salt in the wound.

JAN. 2, 2011

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