The son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and three other young men accused of fatally stabbing a Mesa College student near San Diego State University had their preliminary hearing delayed today after defense attorneys said they needed time to review just-released witness interviews.
Judge Cynthia Bashant, although agreeing that a defense attorney should have notified prosecutors and the court that she wasn't going to be ready today, said the defense had a right to be totally prepared and review all materials in advance of the hearing.
Esteban Nunez, Rafael Garcia, Leshanor Thomas, all 20, and Ryan Jett, 23, are charged with murder and other counts in the Oct. 4 killing of 22-year-old Luis Santos.
Their preliminary hearing -- expected to last three days -- was reset to April 1.
The attorney for Jett, Deputy Public Defender Terry Zimmerman, told the court that she needed to listen to 50 CDs of witness interviews and transcribe them so that she could she could effectively cross-exam witnesses.
Attorneys for the other defendants joined Zimmerman's request. Deputy District Attorney Jill DiCarlo opposed the continuance.
Ed West, whose wife is the godmother to the victim and his sister, said Santos' parents -- who flew in for the hearing from Oakland -- are confident the truth will come out and justice will be served.
"The whole family is heartbroken over the murder of their son, and they've really turned to their faith and their friends for support," West said outside court. "But the loss of their son is something they're going to have to carry with them for the rest of their lives."
According to the prosecution, three of the defendants flew down from Sacramento last fall to join Thomas and were angered at being denied entrance to a fraternity party.
They bragged to Garcia's cousin that they all had knives and wanted to steal a computer or fight someone, DiCarlo alleges.
After they punctured the tires of a truck, they got into a fight with five members of the victim's group, none of whom were armed -- even though Santos was "talking big" about having "a piece," DiCarlo said.
Santos and a friend tried to run away but were attacked anyway, she said.
The prosecutor said Santos was stabbed in the heart and bled to death, another was stabbed in the back and stomach, and a third was stabbed in the shoulder. A fourth victim was punched in the eye and had to undergo plastic surgery, DiCarlo said.
The defendants returned home, burned their clothes and threw their knives in the Sacramento River, according to DiCarlo.
The defendants have biohazard-type tattoos and act like gang members, she said. No gang allegations have been filed in the case.
Photographs posted on Nunez' MySpace account after the attack showed him stabbing a frog, while in another photo he looks like he's about to stab a cat, DiCarlo said.
Nunez's attorney, Brad Patton, said that when the groups encountered each other Santos told the defendants, "I've got my piece. What about you?"
Garcia's lawyer, Paul Pfingst, said his client, the son of an administrative law judge in Sacramento, ran when the fight broke out and wasn't there when Santos was stabbed.
Nunez and Garcia are free on bond, but their co-defendants remain in custody.