Joe Son Sentenced to Life in Prison for Felony Torture


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Joseph Hyungmin Son, better known as Joe Son, on Friday was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the 1990 gang rape of a woman walking her dog on Christmas Eve.

According to a press release issued by the Orange County District Attorney, Son, 40, was convicted on one felony count of torture on Aug. 25. The former fighter had been charged with numerous felony counts of sexual offenses on Oct. 1, 2008, but the charges were not pursued, as the statute of limitations had run out.

Son was identified by a DNA sample he provided as part of a plea during a May 2008 arrest for felony vandalism. Son’s DNA sample was linked to a DNA sample collected from the victim in 1990, and Son was arrested on Oct. 7, 2008 by Huntington Beach Police Department detectives.

As outlined in the district attorney’s release, Son -- along with co-defendant Santiago Lopez Gaitan, 40, of San Antonio -- abducted the victim at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 24, 1990, forcing her into their vehicle and driving away. While holding the victim at gunpoint and threatening to kill her repeatedly, Son “repeatedly raped, sodomized and forced [the victim] to orally copulate him in the back of the car. He also penetrated her vagina with a firearm.” According to the release, Gaitlan also raped the victim and forced her to orally copulate him.

As stated in the release, the victim gave a statement to the court:

“The post traumatic stress disorder is with me daily as I have triggers that set me off. I feel debilitating fear come over me and am convinced a hand is coming from behind again. My emotional scars are intense. My twenties were stripped from my life as I relearned how to walk, see, hear and cope with the outside world again. Joseph Son not only cost me my job at my salon but also my college savings ... not to mention the impact it’s made on celebrating Christmas year after year.”

Son is likely best known to mixed martial arts followers as the stocky inventor of Joe Son Do who competed at UFC 4, submitting to a choke following repeated groin strikes courtesy of kenpo karate stylist Keith Hackney in 1994. Son never won a sanctioned MMA fight, going 0-4 as a professional. He retired in 2002. Son also held a career as an actor, most notably appearing in the 1997 comedy “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”

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