By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
A former actor who achieved fame as a henchman in the first "Austin Powers" film pleaded not guilty in Kern County Superior Court Thursday to a charge filed in connection with the beating death of his cell mate in 2011.
Joseph Son, 42, was immediately led out of Department 1 following his arraignment before Judge H.A. "Skip" Staley on a charge of assault by a life prisoner with force causing death. His next court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7.
Son is eligible for the death penalty under the charge, but prosecutor David Wolf said a decision on whether to seek death has not been made.
The charge against Son is much like a murder charge, but more specific to Son's circumstances since he was already serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole when his cellmate was killed.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports say Son killed Michael Graham the evening of Oct. 10, 2011, while the two were housed together at Wasco State Prison. Graham was serving a two-year term for failing to register as a sex offender.
The reports say Graham died from multiple blunt force trauma.
Son, who in addition to acting was a mixed martial arts fighter, was convicted of torture in 2011 after DNA evidence linked him to a 1990 gang rape in Orange County.
Son played Random Task in the 1997 film "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery."