Schwarzenegger cuts prison sentence of ally’s son

Monday, January 3, 2011

SACRAMENTO - Just hours before his term as California governor was to end Monday, Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the prison sentence of the son of a political ally who was sentenced to 16 years for a 2008 murder.

The move by the former action movie star was made Sunday night as his reign over the financially troubled US state comes to an end, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. Schwarzenegger, a Republican who was elected to office in 2003, is being replaced by Democrat Jerry Brown, who was being sworn in to office later Monday.

Brown, 72, is a former two-term governor who beat his billionaire Republican opponent in November 2010, pledging to reform California’s finances to balance a $28 billion budget deficit.

Schwarzenegger’s decision cut the murder sentence of Esteban Nunez from 16 to seven years. Nunez, 21, was sentenced after being involved in a fight that killed Luis Santos in 2008, and Schwarzenegger said the reduction was justified since a court found that Nunez did not inflict the fatal knife wound.

Nunez is the son of former state Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, who is now a business partner of the governor’s chief political advisor at a California lobbying firm.

“I do not discount the gravity of the offence,” the governor’s statement said. “But given Nunez’s limited role in Santos’ death, and considering that … Nunez had no criminal record prior to this offence, I believe Nunez’s sentence is excessive.”

The family of the victim sharply condemned the action.

“We are totally outraged,” said Fred Santos, father of Luis Santos. “For the governor to wait until the last day in hopes it would fly under the radar is an absolute injustice.”

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