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'Austin Powers' actor gets life for torture, sex assault

The victim recounts the kidnapping and gang rape she suffered on Christmas Eve 1990.
/ Source: The Orange County Register

She raised her index finger as he was led away in handcuffs and clicked a mental picture of the man whose actions have haunted her since that Christmas Eve night two decades ago.

This is the last time you'll see him, the prosecutor told her.

Joseph Hyungmin Son, 40, kept his head bowed as an Orange County judge Friday sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the 1990 Christmas Eve gang rape of a woman who was out walking her dog.

The former movie actor, who had a role in an Austin Powers film, was convicted last month of torturing a young woman he kidnapped off a Huntington Beach street and sexually assaulted in 1990.

The woman, then 19, flew in from out of state to tell the court how "this sad excuse of a human fed off the terror he inflicted to my body, mind and spirit that night."

Moments later outside the 11th floor Santa Ana courtroom of Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno, the victim said she took a mental image of Son as a way of "cleansing of the world."

And, the mother of four said victims of crimes must not stay silent.

They "need to speak up know they can live again, get up and live again," she said.

Briseno ordered Son to register as a sex offender finding that his crime was for "sadistic sexual gratification."

Deputy District Attorney Eric Scarbrough told the jury that Son is a sadist who gained pleasure from the suffering of the 19-year-old victim he and his crime partner abducted at gunpoint on Christmas Eve, and then sexually assaulted in the back seat of a car while telling her repeatedly that she was going to die.

Son, of Garden Grove, tortured her to get her to acquiesce to his desire to sexually assault her, Scarbrough said.

The prosecutor urged the jury to convict Son, who played a shoe-throwing bad guy in the 1997 spy-spoof film "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," to convict Son of both conspiracy to commit murder and torture.

But defense attorney Darren Thompson convinced the jury that there was no specific intent on Son's part to murder the victim.

Thompson acknowledged that Son and his co-defendant sexually assaulted the woman. But Thompson said they took several measures to conceal their identities during the encounter more than 20 years ago, including placing a jacket over the woman's head and using false names.

A jury of eight men and four women, which deliberated about three hours, found Son not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

The victim told the court in her impact statement Friday her memories of the night are "rancid" and she saw herself at her own funeral then.

The uncontrollable shaking. Hearing a woman call 911 as she stood in a stranger's house in a daze with only her jacket on her back and no other clothes. Her father's reaction when he saw her on the emergency room table, where she could not put her head down because of lumps on her head from when she was tortured.

As she was kidnapped and being driven off, she said she saw herself at her own funeral with her family crying and screaming "why."

"For every injury he sadistically created on my skin, the more he reveled in the moment," she told the court. "Every time he struck with his gun, his fist or while kicking me, the more violent he grew He made me feel like I was being eaten alive when he bit me with no remorse in sight."

"He said he was giving me to himself as a Christmas present," she said softly.

The victim testified that after she was repeatedly raped and sodomized at gunpoint, she was dragged out of the car naked and told to run.

She said one of her attackers, whom she identified as Son, told her: "It's Christmas. This is your lucky day."

The woman testified that she was grabbed off a sidewalk, poked in the eyes, her face was slammed into the ground, she was pistol whipped and forcibly sexually assaulted for hours, during which time she was bitten, all the while one of her attackers held a gun to her head. She added that Son told her repeatedly that she was going to die.

Son initially was charged with multiple sexual assaults and kidnapping counts plus penalty enhancements, but those charges were dropped before trial, in part because the statute of limitations had expired. Instead, he stood trial only on conspiracy to commit murder and torture, both of which carried potential life terms.

There were no arrests in the case in 1990, and the investigation went cold.

But in 2008, Son was sent to prison for violating his parole on an unrelated vandalism conviction. That arrest allowed authorities to extract his DNA profile, which was matched to the DNA recovered during a rape examination of the victim in 1990, prosecutors said.

Santiago Gaitan, 40, Son's co-defendant, was arrested in 2009 after he was linked to the assault during a follow-up investigation after Son's arrest. He pleaded guilty to multiple sex crimes in January and was sentenced to prison for 17 years and four months.

Son had a scene in the 1997 Mike Myers "Austin Powers" film, when as character Random Task he threw a shoe at Myers, who played Austin Powers, before he was subdued by the character played by actress Elizabeth Hurley with a bottle of champagne.

The scene is a spoof of "Odd Job," a similar-looking character who threw a lethal bowler hat in the James Bond film "Goldfinger."

The victim still is dealing with post-traumatic stress from Son's actions.

The incident cost her a salon job and her college savings that she had to use to pay for medical bills and years of counseling.

She said she was "fragmented" but still standing and thankful to be alive to see this day.

Contact the writer: 714-834-3773 or