PoliGRAPH

Did Antonio Villaraigosa help a murderer? Video is misleading

Video attacks Antonio Villaraigosa in governor's race

A video distributed by Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox criticizes Democratic candidate Antonio Villaraigosa for his support of a friend's son accused of murder.
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A video distributed by Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox criticizes Democratic candidate Antonio Villaraigosa for his support of a friend's son accused of murder.

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, bidding for a top-two spot in the California primary, has released a video on social media attacking one of his Democratic rivals, Antonio Villaraigosa. The video draws from Villaraigosa's role following a stabbing case involving the son of one of his friends, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

Polling has shown that Villaraigosa could win a spot in the general election along with Democratic Gavin Newsom, thus keeping a Republican off the final ballot. Following is the text of the video and an analysis of its contents:

The script

Why did Democrat candidate for governor Antonio Villaraigosa plead with the judge to let a murderer go free?

On Oct. 4, 2008, Esteban Nuñez, the 19-year-old son of former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez and several of his Sacramento friends were prowling the San Diego State University campus looking for a random victim. A little after 2 a.m., they attacked several young students with knives, leaving one boy dead and others wounded.

Nuñez and his crew then drove back to Sacramento, burned their bloody clothes and threw the knives into the Sacramento River.

Witnesses identified Nuñez as one of the killers.

On his laptop, police discovered chilling accounts of his plans to "go on a killing spree." He spoke (of) letting his victim "bleed to death while ya shiver" and that he would "make a mess while opening ur chest."

In a previous brush with the law, Esteban Nuñez challenged investigators, asking. "Do you know who my dad is?" This time, he bragged to accomplices he expected his dad to "take care of this," as well.

When the judge set bail at $2 million, the Nuñez political machine swung into action. Letters poured in from Sacramento insiders, but the letter from then-Los Angeles Mayor Tony Villaraigosa – on official letterhead – must have hit the victim's family hardest.

"In my heart, I know Esteban Nuñez as a young man of good and upright character," said Villaraigosa.

Those without such high-powered connections remained in jail, but Nuñez's bail was reduced and he got to go home to his politically connected family. Antonio Villaraigosa's influence could not keep a jury from convicting Esteban Nuñez. He was sent to prison, where on his last day in office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted his sentence. Now Antonio Villaraigosa is running for governor, backed by – you guessed it – Fabian Nuñez.

Don't bail Antonio out – we need a leader who will end the corruption and cronyism – and protect California regardless of who their dad is.

Analysis

It's true that Esteban Nuñez was the beneficiary of his father's political friendships. But the charge that Villaraigosa pleaded "to let a murderer go free" is false.

PoliGRAPH

He was one of many others — including then-Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines, Democratic political consultant Gale Kaufman and Bob White, the chief of staff to former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson — who wrote to the judge in 2008 on Esteban Nuñez' behalf at the request of the family, which was seeking to reduce his bail.. The judge did so, from $2 million to $1 million. Villaraigosa's letter testified to Esteban Nuñez' character – he continues to serve as a mentor to him– but didn't specifically ask the judge to do anything.

Esteban Nuñez was never convicted of murder. The brutal language referred to in the video was found in rap lyrics he had written. He eventually pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and other charges and was sentenced to 16 years behind bars. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's action was unrelated to the letter-writing campaign. He granted a clemency request to reduce the sentence to seven years as one of his last acts before leaving office. The brutal language referred to in the video was found in rap lyrics Esteban Nuñez had written on his laptop.

The ad suggests a political deal that resulted in Fabian Nuñez's endorsement of Villaraigosa. Fabian Nuñez no longer serves in political office, and it is unlikely that his endorsement will carry much weight with voters.

PoliGRAPH is The Bee’s political fact checker, rating campaign advertisements and candidate claims as True, Iffy or False.











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