'Austin Powers' actor suspected in prison death

AP News
Posted: Oct 11, 2011 8:10 PM
'Austin Powers' actor suspected in prison death

A bit actor who appeared in the first "Austin Powers" movie is suspected in the death of his cellmate at the California prison where he is serving a life sentence, corrections officials said Tuesday.

Joseph Son , 40, wore a bowler hat and played one of Dr. Evil's henchmen, named Random Task, in 1997's "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery." He also was a mixed martial arts fighter who appeared in several other movies or videos in the 1990s, according to his Hollywood biography.

He arrived at Wasco State Prison in the state's Central Valley on Sept. 16 after he was sentenced in Orange County for the 1990 gang rape of a Southern California woman.

The dead inmate was a parole violator serving a new two-year sentence from San Luis Obispo County for failing to register as a sex offender. He was found dead in the cell he shared with Son before 6 p.m. Monday.

The death was being treated as a homicide, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.

Thornton and Wasco State Prison spokesman Henry Cervantez couldn't say how the inmate died or why the death was considered suspicious. The cellmate, age 50, wasn't immediately identified because relatives had not been notified.

The Kern County District Attorney's Office, which is assisting the investigation, didn't immediately comment. A spokesman for the sheriff-coroner's office, Ray Pruitt, said an autopsy would likely be performed Wednesday.

Both men were in the reception unit for new inmates at the 20-year-old prison, which houses about 5,800 inmates. The cellmate had arrived on June 23.

Son was convicted of one count of torture in August after his DNA linked him to the abduction of a then-19-year-old victim as she walked her dog near her apartment on Christmas Eve.

Son and a co-defendant, Santiago Lopez Gaitan, 40, drove the woman to Huntington Beach at gunpoint, where they raped and sodomized her in the back of the car. They repeatedly threatened to kill her, hitting her with the pistol and telling her she was going to die.

The badly injured woman begged for her life, prosecutors said, and the two men released her naked and blindfolded with her own pants.

Police collected DNA evidence, but couldn't match it to her attackers until Son was required to provide a DNA sample after he pleaded guilty to felony vandalism in 2008 and violated probation.

Son's co-defendant was sentenced to 17 years and four months in state prison after he pleaded guilty in January to five felonies, including kidnapping and sodomy by force in concert.