"Austin Powers" actor Joseph Son was found not guilty Monday of what was effectively a murder charge in the beating death of his cellmate in a Kern County prison.
Instead, the jury convicted Son, 44, of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter following a two-week trial. The jury received the case around 2:30 p.m. Friday, and returned the verdict just before noon.
"We are grateful for the jury’s attention to all the evidence in this case," said Deputy Public Defender T. Alan Rogers. "Considering it was originally a death penalty case, it’s fair to say Mr. Son is relieved the jury didn’t find him to be a cold-blooded murderer."
Jurors returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of assault by a life prisoner with force causing death. It's 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.
A conviction would have resulted in a sentence of life without parole.
Prosecutor Samantha Allen said she was disappointed she didn't get a conviction on the assault charge, but appreciated the jury's hard work. The maximum sentence Son can receive on the manslaughter charge is 27 years.
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.
According to reports, prison staff responded to Son's cell at 5:25 p.m. to a report of a man down. Son was standing at the door of the cell.
"I told you I need to get out of here," the reports said he told an officer. He then began washing his hands.
Graham was lying unresponsive on the cell's lower bunk with his eyes and mouth open, the reports said. Officers handcuffed Son and medical staff worked on Graham, but he was pronounced dead at 5:50 p.m.
He died from multiple blunt force trauma.
Son was serving a life term following a torture conviction in 2011 after DNA evidence linked him to a 1990 gang rape in Orange County.
Son played evil henchman Random Task in the 1997 hit "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," starring Mike Myers as a bumbling British spy. He was a mixed martial arts fighter before taking up acting.
Sentencing is set for Aug. 30.