Esteban Nuñez is released from prison after his sentence was drastically reduced by Schwarzenegger

Esteban Nunez

Esteban Nunez in a file photo by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

(Associated Press)

The son of a former California state Assembly speaker has been freed from prison after his manslaughter sentence was dramatically reduced in 2011 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, prison officials said Sunday.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Esteban Nuñez, now 27, will live in Sacramento County on parole supervision for three years.

Nuñez entered prison in June 2010 to serve a 16-year sentence in the stabbing death of college student Luis Santos in San Diego.

On his last day in office in 2011, Schwarzenegger commuted the sentence to seven years. Nuñez is the son of Fabian Nuñez, who was speaker of the state Assembly and a political ally while Schwarzenegger was governor.


Esteban Nuñez received credit for good behavior and was released after serving less than six years.

“Our son has paid his debt to society. He is committed to continuing the work of healing, self-reflection and spiritual growth,” the Nuñez family said in a statement released Friday.

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Santos’ mother had anticipated Esteban Nuñez’s early release, and she steadfastly believes a high-level political favor is sending him home.


“It makes you sick that something like this can happen, and you have no power,” Kathy Santos told the Los Angeles Times, adding she doesn’t believe the young man has reformed.

The Santos family sued to overturn the shortened sentence, but without success.

In 2012, a Sacramento judge called the commutation “repugnant” but legal. In 2015, an appeals court wrote that “back-room dealings were apparent,” but upheld Schwarzenegger’s power to reduce the sentence.

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Schwarzenegger said at the time that he acted because he thought the 16-year sentence was excessive, but he also acknowledged he was helping a friend.


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