Image: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Mark Ralston  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Arnold Schwarzenegger says he even might get back into acting if the right script comes along.
updated 1/3/2011 4:23:29 AM ET 2011-01-03T09:23:29

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday commuted the manslaughter sentence of the son of California's former Assembly speaker, drawing criticism from the victim's family.

The outgoing governor also granted clemency to a woman who killed her former pimp in a motel room when she was 16.

The moves come just hours before Schwarzenegger is scheduled to leave office on Monday.

His next act? After seven years as governor in Sacramento, the former body builder and film star will by his own account hit the speech circuit, keep a hand in political activism and possibly write the autobiography that publishers have wanted him to do for years.

The Austrian-born Schwarzenegger says he even might get back into acting if the right script comes along — presumably one appropriate for a 63-year-old father of four with political baggage, advancing age lines and a tinge of gray.

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"Will I still have the patience to sit on the set and to do a movie for three months or for six months, all of those things? I don't know," the Republican governor tweeted in October in a rare exchange about his future plans.

Spokesman Aaron McLear says Schwarzenegger is sorting out "an absolute flood of every conceivable offer" from the corporate world, real estate ventures and the entertainment industry, but the governor insists he won't make any decisions until after he surrenders the office to his successor, Democrat Jerry Brown.

'Excessive' sentence
Schwarzenegger said he believed the 16-year prison sentence that Esteban Nunez was serving was "excessive" in reducing his sentence from 16 years to seven years.

Nunez is the son of Fabian Nunez, a Democrat who served as Assembly speaker — one of the most powerful political leadership positions in the state — from 2004 to 2008.

Nunez pleaded guilty in May to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon for his role in a fight that killed a 22-year-old man near San Diego State University in 2008.

Prosecutors said Nunez and friends went looking for a fight after they were refused entry to a fraternity party. Defense attorney Brad Patton said the men acted in self-defense after getting into a fight with the victim as they left the party.

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Video: Departing Gov. Schwarzenegger offers Obama his ‘star power’ (on this page)

The governor's commutation documents point out that Nunez received the same sentence as co-defendant Ryan Jett, despite the court acknowledging that Jett was the person who actually stabbed and killed Luis Dos Santos, and that Jett had a significant criminal record while Nunez had none.

"He was not the actual killer. But despite the evidence that Jett was a leader and instigator in the offense, and that he stabbed and killed Santos, the court sentenced Nunez to the same maximum prison sentence as Jett," the governor said in the order.

"Considering Nunez's limited role in the killing and his clean prior criminal record, I believe his sentence is disproportionate in comparison to Jett's."

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Fred Santos, the victim's father, criticized the commutation, saying that Nunez was no less responsible than the other defendants for his son's death, and got special treatment because his father is close to the governor.

"The courts agreed this was a correct sentence, so they decided to go the political route," he said in a phone interview from his home in Concord.

"They think they can act with impunity, that they are privileged, and of course Arnold just proved they are," he said.

The Santos family learned about the decision when a reporter called to ask about it.

"I think it was very sneaky," said Kathy Santos, the victim's mother.

Paul Levikow, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney's office, had no comment Sunday night.

Murderer to role model
The governor also granted clemency to Sara Kruzan, who was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the 1994 shooting death of George Gilbert Howard. Schwarzenegger reduced her sentence to 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors said Kruzan was no longer working for Howard when she killed him. Her clemency petition cited years of abuse and psychiatric reports saying she suffered from battered women's syndrome.

Sen. Leland Yee, who advocated for Kruzan, said she had turned her life around in prison and could be a role model for abused kids if released. Her case was the centerpiece of Yee's failed bill to allow reduction of life sentences for minors.

Schwarzenegger also issued seven pardons, one conditional pardon and one other commutation late Sunday.

Democrat Jerry Brown is scheduled to be sworn in as governor Monday morning.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Departing Gov. Schwarzenegger offers Obama his ‘star power’

  1. Transcript of: Departing Gov. Schwarzenegger offers Obama his ‘star power’

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: He's a man known for reinventing himself again and again, an Austrian immigrant who became a world-class body builder, a Hollywood action star and, for the past seven years, the chief executive of the largest state in the nation. But this is his last full day on the job. Tomorrow California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is stepping down, and the question Arnold watchers are asking now is, what's next? NBC 's George Lewis reports.

    Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: We are here, ladies and gentlemen, to clean house.

    GEORGE LEWIS reporting: He campaigned as the action hero, sweeping up Sacramento . The former star of the "Terminator" movies...

    Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you.

    LEWIS: ...morphed into the governator.

    Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: I have really loved this job.

    LEWIS: But seven years later Schwarzenegger , who came into office with sky-high popularity, leaves with his approval rating under 30 percent. There have been repeated demonstrations over threatened cuts in education and other public services as the state's budget deficit balloons to $28 billion.

    Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: The issues are very complicated.

    LEWIS: In an interview with Kevin Riggs of NBC station KCRA , Schwarzenegger blamed it on the economy.

    Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: We are in a disastrous situation. You're absolutely correct. We have a national economic slowdown, the biggest one in 80 years.

    LEWIS: But in coping with that, Schwarzenegger has managed to alienate not only the Democrats who run the legislature, but also his fellow Republicans .

    Mr. JACK PITNEY (Professor, Claremont McKenna College): It turned out that there were weights that even Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn't lift.

    LEWIS: He once referred to members of the legislature as "girly men," but under widespread criticism toned down his combative approach.

    Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: I recognized after looking back as somebody said, 'Why did you say that? That was stupid.'

    LEWIS: Despite speculation about Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver , neither seems interested in holding elective office in the future. He hasn't answered questions about whether he'll write an autobiography, although he does say if the Obama administration tapped him for some special job, he might be available.

    Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: If it is environmental things or with other -- in other issues and they feel that I can utilize or they can utilize my talent and my personality and my, you know, star power and all of those things, I'm more than happy to help in any way possible.

    LEWIS: Schwarzenegger has shown a clever capacity to reinvent himself, from bodybuilder to movie star to politician.

    Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: I'll be back.

    LEWIS: And it's a good bet he will be back in some other prominent role. George

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