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Former Governor Confirms He Helped Out A Political Friend By Shortening A Prison Sentence

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The family of slain college student Luis dos Santos, who are fighting to reverse the eleventh hour commutation of a man involved in their son’s murder, may have grounds to file a second lawsuit.

In 2008, 22-year-old, Mesa college student Luis dos Santos was killed in San Diego.  Esteban Nunez, son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, plead guilty to manslaughter and assault charges.  He didn’t dispute the facts, didn’t contend he was innocent and didn’t stand trial.  In the closing hours of his governorship, Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the prison sentence for Nunez by more than half — from 16 to 7 years.

In an apology letter to the Santos family, Schwarzenegger said the reason he cut the prison term to seven years, was Esteban Nunez did not deserve the same 16-year sentence as the man who wielded the knife.  However, many contend the commutation was a personal favor for a close friend and political ally.

Last week, the former Governor gave a snoring response to CBS2 reporter Dave Bryan’s question about why he commuted the prison sentence for Nunez. Now the case has taken a new turn.

When asked if he was helping out his crony by Newsweek magazine this week Schwarzenegger said, “Well hellooooo. I mean, of course you help a friend.”

In a Skype interview from northern California, Auburn attorney Nina Salarno-Ashford, who represents the family of  dos Santos family said Schwarzenegger’s explanation is outrageous and inadequate.

“How disingenuous of a man who used to be the Governor of the state of California, sworn to uphold the laws of California, and just decides that he has the power because he’s doing a favor to a friend.”

Schwarzenegger’s decision to cut Nunez’s sentence has come under fire from prosecutors, fellow Republicans, the dos Santos family and is now the subject of a one  lawsuit.  Based on his recent statements, it may now be the basis of another one.

“It is possibly a legal issue,” says Salarno-Ashford.  “I’ve discussed it with my partner.  It is something we are looking into.”

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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