A newspaper investigation has revealed Arnold Schwarzenegger denied clemency for dozens of inmates with circumstances similar to Esteban Núñez, former state Assembly speaker Fabian Núñez's son whose prison sentence was more than cut in half before the Governator left Sacramento.
Sieu Ngo of Fullerton is among those “model prisoners” who had his parole recommendation reversed by Schwarzenegger despite not being the suspect who killed the victim in his case and having no previous criminal record, just like Esteban Núñez.
Núñez, 19, and his friends attacked a group of men in San Diego in October 2008, leaving Luis Santos dead. The attackers then drove 500 miles to Sacramento to burn their clothes and throw their knives in a river. Court records show Núñez told his friends not to worry because his father was politically connected.
As one of his last official acts, Schwarzenegger cut the prison sentence for Núñez from 16 years to seven.
That has caused a shitstorm from judges, law enforcement and victims-right activists, particularly in San Diego. Locally, incoming Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) has called for legislation to reduce the power of future governors to grant clemency and reduce prison sentences.
But Schwarzenegger also received criticism from prison-rights advocates who claim his treatment of Núñez is unfair considering all the inmates the governor has not provided similar mercy.
Reports Jack Dolan in the Los Angeles Times:
Schwarzenegger laid out circumstances strikingly similar to those of the Nuñez case in a June 2009 order overturning the parole board's decision to free Sieu Ngo, who had served 16 years for his role in a gang assault at Fullerton High School.
Like Nuñez , Ngo was 19 at the time of his crime. It was September 1992 when he and four friends chased and beat a rival gang member, Angel Gonzalez. During the attack, one of Ngo's accomplices pulled a gun and shot Gonzalez once in the back, killing him. And like Nuñez, Ngo then hopped in a car with the others and hit the road.
. . .
Schwarzenegger acknowledged that Ngo, who is serving 16 years to life, had maintained “supportive relationships with family and friends” during his time in prison and had a job offer waiting for him if he got out. But the former governor argued that Ngo still failed to take full responsibility for his actions, a trait he had demonstrated after the attack by fleeing to another state, Schwarzenegger wrote.
Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that Núñez and his friends fled to Washington state in an attempt to escape justice.
Schwarzenegger cut Núñez's sentence 18 months after ordering Ngo to stay in prison.
“I'd love to ask the [former] governor what distinguishes one case from the other,” Keith Wattley, an attorney who represents inmates seeking parole, told the Times.
Of course, the answer is obvious: Ngo's father is not Fabian Núñez.