The Nunez-Schwarzenegger Legacy

Katy Grimes:

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger might finally have a legacy, but it isn’t what he had hoped for and forever links him with nefarious, notorious politicians.

Esteban Nunez, the privileged son of  former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, may have received a commutation on his prison term, but he still has two-strikes on his criminal record.

Less than a three months ago, a judge agreed with the San Diego prosecutors in the case that Nunez’s sentence should not be reduced. Despite that decision, the commutation of Nunez’s criminal conviction for Nunez’s role in the stabbing death of college student Luis Santos in 2008 reduced the sentence from 16 to seven years.

Schwarzenegger is said to be personal friends with Fabian Nunez, who now works as a political consultant with Schwarzenegger’s former communications director. Nunez and Schwarzenegger worked very closely in 2006 to pass AB 32, California’s global warming law.

“The commutation has nothing to do with the conviction,” said Paul Levikow, Communications Director for the San Diego District Attorney. “It was mainly about the time he will serve, and does not erase or overturn the conviction.”

Levikow also confirmed that the two strikes Nunez received with the murder conviction will remain on his record.

Bonnie Dumanis, the District Attorney who handled the case, said on Monday that her office was never consulted by Schwarzenegger before making the Nunez commutation. Nunez had already reached a deal with the DA when he agreed — the night before the trial — to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter instead of standing trial on murder charges, which could have led to a life sentence.

Schwarzenegger said he believed the 16-year prison sentence that Esteban Nunez was serving was “excessive.” But many in and around the Capitol are calling Schwarzenegger’s commutation of Nunez’s son something worthy of a politician like former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Some even believe that the Nunez commutation will haunt Schwarzenegger the way the pardon of Marc Rich will forever be tied to former President Bill Clinton. He was indicted on federal charges of illegally making oil deals with Iran during the Iran hostage crisis, as well as tax evasion, but fled the U.S. during his prosecution. That pardon sparked a massive investigation into whether it was actually “bought” through the hefty political donations made by Rich and his ex-wife, Denise, to the Clintons and other Washington Democrats.

The result of all this is that, once again, Schwarzenegger has made a laughing stock out of the state. He’s also stained his legacy, becoming just another elitist, craven politician — exactly what he had promised to fight when he first took office seven years ago.

JAN. 4, 2011

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