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Georgia Supreme Court overturns hate crime law


In overturning Georgia's hate crime statute this week, the state Supreme Court did not condone the actions of Christopher Botts and Angelina Pisciotta, the first and only felons convicted under the law. In its decision, the state's highest court wrote that Botts and Pisciotta, who brutally beat two African-American men in Little Five Points, were in fact "motivated by a bigoted or hate-filled point of view."

The problem was with the statute's wording. Unlike other states, which have defined a hate crime as having a victim targeted for race, religion or sexual orientation, Georgia's law only required that a victim be chosen based on "bias" or "prejudice." By that logic, the justices wrote, a defendant could be found guilty of a hate crime -- and face up to five additional years in prison -- for being "a rabid sports fan convicted of uttering terroristic threats to a victim selected for wearing a competing team's baseball cap."

As a result of the law being overturned, Botts' and Pisciotta's sentences will be reduced from eight years to six.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, who authored the law, says it was written in such a way to satisfy "those on the right who did not want to include sexual orientation in the bill."

"Now, we're going to get back at the drawing board," says Fort, who plans to introduce a revised version of the law in the next legislative session.

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