City Attorney Jan Goldsmith just released a fiery statement today about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 11th-hour commuting of Esteban Núñez’s sentence from 16 to seven years.

It reads:

Esteban Núñez — son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez — is a criminal who was sentenced by an experienced and well-respected Superior Court Judge. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the sentence by over half to help his political crony’s son. In doing so, he undermined the judicial system and has jeopardized public safety.

This homicide occurred in the City of San Diego. I speak for the overwhelming majority of San Diegans in stating that we are appalled and angry over Mr. Schwarzenegger’s conduct. It reflects poorly on him, personally, and on his legacy as governor.

Esteban Núñez was sentenced to 16 years in prison last year for his role in the fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Luis Dos Santos near San Diego State University in 2008.

In his final hours as governor, Schwarzenegger commuted Núñez’s sentence, citing the young man’s clean previous criminal record and limited role in the stabbing.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, whose office prosecuted the case,  also expressed outrage over the former governor’s final act in office:

We were shocked to hear of the Governor’s last-minute commutation, which greatly diminishes justice for victim Luis Santos and re-victimizes his family and friends. The District Attorney’s Office was not consulted and the decision comes as the appeals process was continuing.

I wrote about the Núñez altercation in 2009. Shortly after he was charged, I went down to the courthouse and pulled Núñez’s court file. It was stuffed with letters from important and powerful political figures and California civic leaders. I wrote about those letters in this story, published last May.

Here’s a snippet from that story:

“I have had the opportunity to watch him (Esteban) grow and develop into a decent and responsible young man,” wrote Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was Fabian Núñez ‘s best man. California Assemblyman Kevin De León, wrote: “I have known Esteban for his entire life. I have known him to be considerate, gentle and well mannered.”

The upwelling of support, which included more than 70 letters from prominent Californians including a Pomona City Council member, labor union reps, a restaurateur and a high-flying political consultant, may well have helped Esteban Núñez get his bail reduced in half from $2 million to $1 million last year.

Please contact Will Carless directly at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.550.5670 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/willcarless.

Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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