Random Joe: The dirty life and crimes of Joseph Son

Joseph Hyunming Son is probably not a well-known name today, and it’s a stretch to say that it ever was.

But Joe Son does have a face that you might recognize, and from more than just one place. Joe Son competed in MMA as early as 1994; he fought for the UFC and Pride in a short but hardly notable career. Son’s initial exposure came as the cornerman for Kimo Leopoldo, and his celebration, along with Leopoldo, following Royce Gracie’s withdraw from UFC 3, was perhaps the shining moment of his career.

As a competitor, Son was most known for absorbing a flurry of groin strikes on his way to a submission loss to Keith Hackney, and for a submission loss to Joe Moreira due to “terror.” He was 0-4 as a professional MMA fighter and 0-1 as a kickboxer. Aside from his place as a fringe figure in the early days of MMA, Son also appeared in several films, most notably as “Random Task” in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

By 2003, Son’s brief spotlight had primarily burned out, and he would not make another appearance in the MMA or film world, and that would probably be where the story of Joe Son ended. If not for a felony Vandalism conviction in 2008.

UFC 4 marked the debut of future Hall of Famer, Dan “The Beast” Severn, as well as longtime Pride, Pancrase, and UFC veteran, Guy Mezger. Perhaps less noteworthy, but essential to our story here, was the debut of Joe Son. Son was a unique specimen from the beginning; at just 5’4 inches tall, he still managed to weigh in at nearly 240 pounds. Son entered the tournament as a representative of Tae Kwon Do and Jo Son Do, but we did not see much of either in his only fight of the night. (If you are wondering what Jo Son Do is, it would appear that no instructional videos exist, so the martial art, no doubt an example of modern-day wizardry, seems to be lost.)

Son was matched up with Keith Hackney, a fighter most notable for stopping the 600-pound sumo wrestler, Emmanuel Yarborough, at UFC 3. Son managed to take Hackney down during the bout, and even attempted a guillotine choke. But Hackney, ever the crafty vet, would have none of it. Hackney escaped the guillotine by unleashing a flurry of strikes to the groin of Joe Son, forcing his opponent to release the hold. From there, Hackney forced Son to tap to a sort of one-handed choke. Son would not compete in another MMA bout for eight years.

1995 saw Joe Son try his hand at kickboxing, and in what would soon become a trend, he was defeated. This time by a Japanese fighter, Nabuaki Kakuda. From there, Joe Son would find the only real success that he ever truly knew. After playing in several movies throughout the early to mid-nineties, mostly in bit roles, Son was given a chance to act in a significant film, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Starring Mike Meyers, Elizabeth Hurley, and a slew of upcoming comedic actors, International Man of Mystery was the first of the Austin Powers trilogy. Son played the role of Random Task, a character that seemed to be a parody of OddJob from the James Bond franchise.

Son’s face would appear on screen many times, including in many notable scenes. Despite this seemingly noteworthy role, the door was closing on Joe Son’s days as an actor. Austin Powers marked the pinnacle of Joe Son’s acting career, and it also marked its end. Son would not act again after 1997, but he did decide to return to his old stomping grounds.

Despite not competing in an MMA bout since 1994, Son ended his retirement in 2002 and fought on three separate occasions. He competed twice for Pride and lost both times. Arguably, the most interesting fight of Son’s later career came under the Xtreme Pankration banner against fellow UFC vet, Joe Moreira. The bout is notable for being one of if not the only bouts in MMA history to end via submission due to terror. Unfortunately, this did not involve Son actually running in fear from Moreira, but when the two engaged, Moreira landed a strike that busted him open, and it also brought the white flag, as Son quit essentially at the sight of his own blood.

Moreira was declared the victor via submission due to terror, handing Joe Son his third loss in the process. Son finished out his career with his second and final Pride bout, a fight against Jukei Nakajima. As previously stated, Son lost, and in doing so, he ended his MMA career with a winless record of 0-4. In the end, it would seem that Joe Son was not a good representative of Jo Son Do, but when considering the source, perhaps we saw the absolute best that it had to offer. Joe Son should have faded into obscurity after this, as he did not pursue any noteworthy public endeavors. In fact, Joe Son turned his attention to the criminal world, and in doing that, he sewed his own undoing.

In 2008, Joe Son was arrested for felony vandalism. As a condition of pleading guilty, Son was required to provide a DNA test to authorities. Son was arrested shortly after his release on a parole violation, and he was actually in custody at a facility in Orange County when his DNA results were finally processed. The results were jarring, to say the least, they showed that Son was far more than a vandal, and he had been for quite some time.

The results linked Son to a violent unsolved rape from 1990, in Huntington Beach, California. This meant that Son competed in the UFC, Pride, and even had a brief career in Hollywood, all while guarding a secret that would have sent him away for life. The victim was just nineteen years old in 1990 when she was approached by Joe Son and Santiago Gaitan, under the guise of asking for directions.

She was only footsteps from her apartment, with her dog wrapped in her coat, as the two men attacked her from multiple angles. One of them held a gun to her head as they dragged her towards their awaiting vehicle. The victim, who seemingly does not use her real name for interviews, is quoted as saying that one of the men whispered into her ear as he dragged her, something along the lines of “I’m gonna kill you so bad, I’m gonna throw you off a cliff, I’m gonna mutilate you and throw you.” Unfortunately for the victim, the horrors were just beginning.

Son and Gaitan threatened the victim with untold violence, they threatened the lives of any would-be rescuers, and then they beat her unconscious. After dragging the victim into the car, Joe Son and his devilish friend proceeded to take turns raping her at gunpoint. Detailed descriptions of the attack, in the words of the victim, are available online, but “graphic” hardly does them justice.

But for some reason, despite telling her they would not be letting her go, they did just that. The car stopped, the victim was kicked from the vehicle, and given only a jacket. Joe Son told her “Merry Christmas” and to “run.” Despite suffering through a traumatizing event, the victim was able to escape with her life. While she would spend the following years in a state of turmoil, Joe Son decided to spend his time as an athlete (albeit an extremely unsuccessful one), as well as an actor.

Upon his arrest in 2008, for the assault, Son was charged with five counts of rape, two counts of forcible sodomy, two counts of forcible sodomy by force, seven counts of forced oral copulation, and one count of rape by foreign object by force. It would be 2011 before Son was brought to trial, but once there, he was swiftly convicted on one felony count of torture, though most of the sex crimes were dropped due to statute of limitation laws. He was sentenced to life in prison, though he did have a chance at parole. Joe Son was finally where he’d belonged since 1990, and in a fairer world, he never would have had the chance to make a name for himself on anything outside of the prison boxing team.

But finally, it seemed that the story of Joe Son had reached its end. That is until he was locked into a cage with another man, though this time, the situation was a bit different from Son’s early octagon days.

On September 10, 2011, Joe Son was sharing a cell with Michael Graham. Much like Son, Graham was a sex offender; he was serving a two-year sentence for failing to register as such in the state of California. What exactly led to the events of that evening are known only to Joe Son. But when prison officials approached Son and Graham’s cell just after 5pm, Son was washing his hands, and Michael Graham lay deceased on his bunk, the victim of an apparent homicide via blunt force trauma. Son was eventually charged with murder in 2013 and was ultimately convicted of the lesser sentence of manslaughter in 2017.

According to California prison records, Son is currently serving his sentence at High Desert State Prison, where he is listed as inmate number AI7266*. Considering his crimes, and demonstrably poor character, it appears unlikely that Joe Son will ever enjoy another day of freedom as long as he remains.

*Records showed only one Joseph Son listed in the California prison system, and the subject listed was incarcerated at the same time as the Joseph Son featured in the article above. But for clarity’s sake, I could not verify his current whereabouts beyond this.

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