News - Hate crime suspect's dad was accused in Buckhead socialite slaying
A violent past erupted in Little Five Points hate crime
After Christopher Botts was arrested two weeks ago for viciously attacking two black men in Little Five Points, he told police that, like his two accomplices, he was from California.
Botts' hate is born and bred in Georgia, outlined in Cobb County court records that show a crime-ridden rite of passage from teenage runaway to enraged felon. A local acquaintance of Botts' tells tales of his earnest charm — one that melts into sociopathic hysterics — and of his neo-Nazi leanings.
Then there's his father.
While Christopher Botts, Angelina Pisciotta and Ulysses Andrade are making headlines this month for being the first defendants prosecuted for a hate crime in Fulton County, the elder Botts made his name in the news a decade ago. Clinton Botts was suspected of playing a role in one of Atlanta's most publicized unsolved killings: the 1987 alleged murder-for-hire of Buckhead socialite Lita Sullivan.
An FBI affidavit filed in the federal murder case against Sullivan's millionaire husband links Clinton Botts to the slaying. Botts, however, was never arrested, and Thomas Henley, another alleged hit man supposedly hired by Lita's husband James Sullivan, was arrested but never indicted. Nor did James Sullivan 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 the hit man, but Harwood's lawyers filed a motion insisting their client merely met with the actual killers, whose names the lawyers didn't disclose.)
Christopher Botts was 14 years old when an FBI informant identified his father as a suspect. His father denied any involvement, stating the informant was a liar. Christopher, however, was fixated on the fact that his father was implicated. He had clipped and carried with him a news story describing his father's alleged role.
"He saved the article for the longest time. And he was really proud of this," says an acquaintance of Christopher Botts, who asked not to be named. Lita Sullivan was black, and her husband, who was white, allegedly wanted her dead to avoid a costly divorce.
In 1991, while the Sullivan accusations were still playing out, Clinton Botts pulled a knife on a man named Daniel Stamper, according to court papers. Botts' son, Christopher, then 14, 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 Patricia Bridges, who later divorced him.
"You heard one officer testify you made some comment about killing Patricia?" the prosecutor asked.
"She does that, I do that," Clinton Botts answered. "It wasn't no big deal."
He later said his wife had "already run my son off" (police say Christopher 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 terrorist threats and imprisoned for three years.
In 1997, not long after Clinton Botts was released from Bostick State Prison, Christopher went looking for his father. He found him at his grandmother's house and attacked him, kicking his father 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.
When police came to arrest Christopher, he kicked out the rear windows of the squad car. It was the charges arising from that that landed him in a year-long sentence at the Cobb jail.
"Really — it was my fault," Clinton Botts said at his son's sentencing hearing. "That's the reason I feel so guilty. ... I had just gotten out of prison. ... I said some things about his mom I shouldn't have said."
Cobb Superior Court Judge Michael Stoddard also required that Christopher Botts serve five years on probation and that he receive counseling to control his violence.
It is unclear as to how much of the sentence Christopher served; eight months after the judge sent him to jail, he was accused of simple battery and aggravated assault, according to a Cobb County warrant.
Cobb sheriff's deputies tracked down and arrested Botts five months later. He was jailed, his parole was revoked and he was sentenced in May 1998 to three years in prison. In the first year, Botts was twice sent to a two-week solitary confinement — the first time because he tried to injure himself, the second because he attacked a guard.
Nonetheless, he was released five months early.
A year-and-a-half later, Botts and two friends from California, Angelina Pisciotta and Ulysses Andrade, were sitting outside the Clothing Warehouse in Little Five Points when two black men, Che and Idris Golden, walked by.
Witnesses say the three panhandlers had been yelling racial slurs most of the afternoon. They asked the Goldens for money. The Goldens refused. The panhandlers allegedly jumped them, punching them in the face, knocking them to the ground and kicking them in the head until both men were unconscious. Che was hospitalized for three days, Idris six.
Botts, 19-year-old Pisciotta and 27-year-old Andrade are jailed in Fulton County without bond, and District Attorney Paul Howard says he intends to prosecute them under the state's 2-year-old hate crime statute. It will be the second such case in Georgia and the first against accused felons.
One person who knew Botts says the crime is no surprise. Although he's 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," recalls Botts' acquaintance. "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.'"