Halfway through his jury trial on a rape charge last week, Michael South, who already faces a potential 20-year sentence for a separate conviction, called it quits.
The ex-convict who was accused of punching his pregnant girlfriend and threatening to kill her unborn child before terrorizing the victim with a knife and hatchet and raping her, opted to accept a plea bargain.
On the second day of the trial, following testimony by the victim, South was offered an olive branch and he deliberated over whether to take it.
“This offer was extended over lunch and we have been waiting 35 minutes past lunch,” First District Judge Scott Wayman said. “I really can’t wait any longer. We have a jury panel waiting.”
The judge gave South five additional minutes to make a decision, before calling the jury back into the courtroom.
“That is all,” Wayman said. “The clock is ticking.”
Ten minutes later, South pleaded guilty to an amended charge of domestic battery, which will carry a five-year fixed prison sentence, according to the agreement, plus another five years indeterminate, which can be used at the discretion of the Department of Correction.
The original charges against South, 45, included two felony counts of aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping and domestic battery stemming from an incident two years ago. The defendant, who spent time behind bars for a 2010 assault, allegedly threatened his girlfriend with a camp hatchet and a 10-inch knife.
According to testimony, South told the victim he would “chop off” her head, or “debilitate” her. He kicked her in the chest, “stomped” on her when she was pregnant, and threatened to “cut that baby right out of” her, according to a police report.
He also told the victim he would nick her jugular with a knife so she could watch the blood squirt, and that he just “wanted her to suffer,” according to a report in court records.
He later told another witness that he had snapped, and was out of his mind at the time of the threats.
In August as part of a different case, South was convicted by a jury of felony battery and aggravated assault. Those charges can carry a combined 20 years in prison.
A sentencing date has not been set, but prosecutors said First District Judge Fred Gibler will sentence South for both convictions at one hearing.
Aside from the latest convictions, South’s previous convictions in Idaho include a robbery conviction in Boundary County in 1999 and a second-degree kidnapping conviction in Bonner County in 2004, according to the prosecutor’s office.
In addition, First District Judge John Mitchell last year imposed a five-year sentence for South for violating the terms of his probation for the 2011 assault.
Mitchell acknowledged making a mistake when he allowed South probation.
“I will not make the same mistake again,” Mitchell said. “It’s my hope the parole commission never allows you your freedom again. No woman should have to face what you have presented various women with, at various points in time.”