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A document filed Thursday in San Diego Superior Court shows that Esteban Nuñez, the young man whose sentence was commuted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the former governor’s last actions in office, chose to abandon his appeal as early as three weeks before the commutation.

Nuñez, who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 2009 in the killing of 22-year-old Luis Santos, had been appealing Superior Court Judge Robert O’Neill’s decision to imprison him for 16 years. On Dec. 6, while that appeal was still pending, Nuñez signed an official document abandoning it.

Three weeks later, the governor commuted his sentence from 16 to seven years.

The timing suggests that Nuñez, the son of former Assembly speaker Fabian Nuñez, may have known long before Schwarzenegger’s official announcement that his sentence was going to be commuted, said Paul Pfingst, a defense attorney and former district attorney.

“That’s one of two immediate inferences that can be made from this document,” Pfingst said. “The other is that the client has been told by an appellate attorney that the case has no chance of succeeding and is going to be expensive to pursue.”

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Santos’ family have cried foul over the former governor’s actions.

Central to their complaints has been the fact that they weren’t told that Nuñez had appealed to the governor to have his sentence commuted. Had they known Nuñez had done that, the family and Dumanis have said, they would have sought to convince the governor that commuting Nuñez’s sentence would be a mistake.

Nuñez’s attorney, Brad Patton, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Steve Walker, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said, “That document clearly speaks for itself.”

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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