Assembly speaker’s son and co-defendant plead guilty in San Diego stabbing death


The son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez and a co-defendant pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter and assault in the 2008 stabbing death of a college student in San Diego.

Their guilty pleas were part of an agreement with the San Diego County district attorney’s office in which murder charges were dropped.

Superior Court Judge Robert O’Neill indicated that he plans to send Esteban Nuñez, 21, and Ryan Jett, 24, to prison but may not impose the maximum sentence of 16 years. Sentencing was set for June 25.

Two other defendants had already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Nuñez and Jett. Luis Santos, 22, a student at San Diego Mesa College, was stabbed to death Oct. 4, 2008, on a street near San Diego State University.

Prosecutors alleged that Nuñez and his three friends, after a night of heavy drinking, were angry at being rebuffed when they tried to crash a fraternity party near campus. Jett and Nuñez were charged with murder, assault and conspiracy to destroy evidence.

Jury selection had begun Tuesday amid last-minute negotiations between prosecutors and attorneys for Nuñez and Jett.

After the defendants entered their pleas, O’Neill ordered Nuñez and Jett into custody immediately without bail. Both had been free on bail while awaiting trial. Before the slaying, the two had been living in Sacramento and had come to San Diego for a weekend of partying.

“After carefully evaluating the strength of the case, we have determined this is an appropriate resolution,” said Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis. “Both defendants are admitting their responsibility for the death of Luis Dos Santos.”

By pleading guilty to two felonies, each will have two strikes. Should they commit other felonies, they would be eligible for sentences of 25 years to life in prison, Dumanis said.

Rafael Garcia, 21, of Sacramento pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to destroy evidence connected to this case. He is facing up to three years in prison at his sentencing June 24.

Leshanor Thomas, 21, also of Sacramento, pleaded guilty in February to one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon. He faces up to four years, eight months in prison.