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Like father, like son

A violent past erupted in Little Five Points hate crime

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After Christopher Botts was arrested two weeks ago for viciously attacking two black men in Little Five Points, police wrote in an incident report that, like his two accomplices, he was from California.

He's not.

Botts' anger is born and bred in Georgia and fueled by his father, according to a friend and a relative. Cobb County court records illustrate Botts' crime-ridden rite of passage from teenage runaway to enraged felon.

"I'll tell you this much, he grew up in a horrible, horrible, horrible family life," says a cousin who recalls Botts' frequent stays at her house. She asked not to be named. "He should have been removed from his parents from the time he was small. It should never have gotten out of hand like that."

Botts' mother, Patricia Buttram, says her son grew up "emotionally disturbed" and that she raised him as best she could.

"He's done some bad things," she says. "But he's just a good person. He's got the biggest heart."

She also says that despite the district attorney's announcement that Botts will be prosecuted under the state's hate crime statute, Botts is not a racist.

"He can't believe he's being charged with something like this," says Buttram, who's been visiting her son in the Fulton County jail.

Yet Botts and his friends, Angelina Pisciotta and Ulysses Andrade, are making headlines this month for being the first defendants prosecuted for a hate crime in Fulton County. And Botts' arrest revives memories of his father and a much-publicized case a decade ago: Clinton Botts was a suspect in the 1987 alleged murder-for-hire of Buckhead socialite Lita Sullivan.

An FBI informant's affidavit filed in the federal murder case against Sullivan's millionaire husband describes Clinton Botts as the hit man who killed the 35-year-old woman. But the informant was deemed unreliable. Botts was never arrested, and Thomas Henley, who allegedly planned the hit with Botts, was arrested but never indicted. Nor did James Sullivan, who supposedly hired the men to kill his estranged wife, ever face trial; U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Shoob ruled in 1992 there wasn't enough evidence to take to a jury.

(A man named Tony Harwood has since been arrested as Sullivan's killer-for-hire, but Harwood's lawyers filed a motion insisting their client merely met the killers.)

Christopher Botts was 14 years old when the informant identified his father as the suspect. Botts' mother recalls the Sunday afternoon when the boy turned on the television and saw his father's face.

"I remember Chris screaming, 'Oh, mama. Daddy's on the news,'" Buttram says. "He started crying."

Christopher Botts was fixated on his father being implicated, according to a former friend of Christopher's. She says Christopher Botts had clipped and carried with him a news story describing his father's alleged role.

"He saved the article for the longest time," says the woman, who asked not to be named. She claims Botts harped on the fact that Lita Sullivan was black and her husband was white.

While the murder accusations were still playing out in 1991, Clinton Botts pleaded guilty to pulling a knife on a man named Daniel Stamper, according to court papers. Christopher was a witness. The elder Botts pleaded guilty and spent six months in the Cobb County jail.

Two years later, Clinton Botts was arrested again, this time in front of his daughter.

According to a transcript of the 1994 Cobb County trial, Clinton Botts, who had received three DUIs from 1985 to 1990, drank between 12 and 14 beers and went to his estranged wife's apartment to pick up his daughter. He said he was concerned for his daughter's welfare.

"I love both my children dearly, and I wanted the court to know that the only thing I was doing was trying to protect my children," he testified.

He then described his scuffle with his wife, who was separated from him and later divorced him.

"You heard one officer testify you made some comment about killing Patricia [Buttram]?" the prosecutor asked.

"She does that, I do that," Clinton Botts answered. "It wasn't no big deal."

He later said that his wife had "already run my son off" (police say Christopher Botts frequently ran away) and that violent talk between husband and wife was nothing unusual: "You know, she will say, 'Clint, I'm going to blow your brains out,' and I say, 'I'm going to cut your head off.'"

Clinton Botts was convicted of terroristic threats and imprisoned for three years.

In 1997, not long after Clinton Botts was released from Bostick State Prison, his son went looking for him, according to court documents. Christopher Botts found his father at his grandmother's house and attacked him, kicking him so hard with his steel-toed boots that Clinton Botts ended up in intensive care with a ruptured spleen and a concussion, not to mention a bite wound to his chest, according to a Cobb County arrest warrant.

When police came to arrest Christopher Botts, he kicked out the rear windows of the squad car, court records show. The charges arising from that burst of violence landed him in a year-long sentence at the Cobb County jail.

"Really -- it was my fault," Clinton Botts said at his son's sentencing hearing. The elder Botts did not want police to press charges against his son, according to family members. "I feel so guilty," Botts testified. "I had just gotten out of prison. ... I said some things about his mom I shouldn't have said."

In addition to the jail stay, Cobb Superior Court Judge Michael Stoddard required that Christopher Botts serve five years on probation and that he receive counseling to control his violence.

It is unclear from the court records how much of the sentence he served; eight months after the judge sent him to jail, he was accused of simple battery and aggravated assault, according to another Cobb County warrant.

Cobb sheriff's deputies tracked down and arrested Christopher Botts five months later. He was jailed again, his parole was revoked and he was sentenced in May 1998 to three years in prison. In the first year, he was twice sent to two-week solitary confinement -- the first time because he tried to injure himself, the second because he attacked a guard, according to Department of Corrections spokesman Scott Stallings.

When Christopher Botts was released from prison in December 2000, he was placed under house arrest and went to live with his uncle. Shortly after his release, his father died of cirrhosis of the liver, according to Botts' cousin.

"Christopher was right beside his bed every day," she says. "And he'd cry. He just didn't want him to die."

Botts got a job at a Longhorn Steakhouse, his cousin says. Then he traveled to California.

About a year ago, Botts returned to Cobb County, and 19-year-old Angelina "Angel" Pisciotta, from Escondido, Calif., followed him. They lived on and off with Botts' mother.

Buttram says the couple preferred living on the street. "He's 25. What can I do?"

On April 6, Botts, Pisciotta and Ulysses Andrade were sitting outside the Clothing Warehouse in Little Five Points, begging for change, according to an Atlanta police incident report. (Andrade, from California, had been jailed three times in the past five years, twice for burglary, says Santa Ana, Calif., jail spokeswoman Virginia O'Leary.)

At about 6 p.m., two black men, Che and Idris Golden, walked by. Witnesses told police the three panhandlers had been yelling racial slurs most of the afternoon. They asked the Goldens for money. The Goldens refused. The panhandlers jumped them, punching them in the face, knocking them to the ground and kicking them in the head until both men were unconscious, according to witness accounts in the police report.

Che was hospitalized for three days, Idris six.

Botts, Pisciotta and 27-year-old Andrade are jailed in Fulton County without bond and were indicted Friday. District Attorney Paul Howard intends to prosecute them under the state's 2-year-old hate crime statute, which means they face up to 25 years in prison instead of 20. It will be the second hate crime case prosecuted in Georgia and the first against accused felons.

Botts' cousin and sister, like his mother, say the DA's decision is unfair. They say they've never known Botts to be racist. "Even if he got 25 years in a mental institute, I would feel better," says his sister, Candice, who claims Christopher has zero allegiance with any hate group or white supremacist ideology.

"I never heard him say, 'I hate blacks,'" his cousin says. "He worked with them. He hung around with them."

But Botts' friend says that although he is easy to get along with at first, his troubles inevitably seeped into his friendships. He was known to snap into a violent rage and then apologize, saying his father was stressing him out.

"He would talk a really good talk," she recalls. "And he's got big, beautiful blue eyes. And he would play those eyes all the time.

"He would always be like, 'I just need help. I just need your help.'"

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