SAN DIEGO — The son of former California state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and another man pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter Wednesday in the fatal stabbing of a San Diego college student.
Esteban Nunez, 21, and co-defendant Ryan Jett, 24, could face 16 years in prison for the death of Luis Dos Santos, a 22-year-old San Diego Mesa College student who was stabbed in the chest.
The Sacramento men also pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
Prosecutors said Esteban Nunez, Jett and two other men were angry because they were refused entry to a fraternity party and attacked Dos Santos and three others near San Diego State University on Oct. 4, 2008.
The two defendants were originally charged with murder, assault, vandalism, conspiracy to commit an assault and conspiracy to destroy evidence. If convicted, they both could have faced 25 years to life behind bars.
"After carefully evaluating the strength of the case, we have determined this is an appropriate resolution," San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.
Defense attorney Brad Patton said the men acted in self-defense after getting into a fight with the victim as they left the party.
Esteban Nunez did not stab Dos Santos but agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter to avoid the possibility of getting a life term if the case went to trial, the lawyer said. He acknowledged being armed with a knife during the fight.
"It was a very, very difficult decision for the family to work through this," Patton said. "We very much wanted to go to trial to get the real truth of the case out but it's a tragic situation all the way around and Esteban is ready to take responsibility for his role in the event."
Both men will be held without bail as they await sentencing on June 25.
The two other men involved in the case pleaded to lesser charges.
Rafael Garcia, 21, of Sacramento pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to destroy evidence. He could face up to three years in prison at his sentencing on 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 could face up to four years, eight months in prison.
Esteban Nunez was arrested the same year his father ended his Assembly tenure as the longest-serving speaker in California's era of legislative term limits.
Fabian Nunez did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
Nunez worked his way through the political ranks of the Los Angeles labor movement before being elected as a Democrat in 2002 to the Legislature.
In 2004, he was elected Assembly speaker, one of the most powerful political leadership positions in the state.
Nunez joined the New York-based Mercury Public Affairs as a consultant in Sacramento after his Assembly term ended in 2008.
Eds: UPDATES with details, comment from defense attorney. ADDS that men pleaded to two counts of assault. CORRECTS to give full name of victim as Luis Dos Santos, per prosecutor. ADDS byline, STANDS for story previously slugged Speaker's Son-Murder.