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Man sentenced to 2 years in jail for grabbing boy in Ocean Beach

Posted at 9:34 AM, May 09, 2024

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who was captured in widely circulated footage grabbing a young boy outside an Ocean Beach business and trying to take the child with him was sentenced Wednesday to two years in county jail.

Christopher Higginbotham, 39, pleaded guilty to a felony false imprisonment count for picking an 8-year-old boy up on March 22 along Newport Avenue. He was subdued by a group of people, including the boy's father.

Higginbotham was arrested and initially charged with attempted kidnapping, but that count was dismissed as part of his guilty plea.

During a Wednesday afternoon sentencing hearing, Higginbotham said what occurred was a mistake, as at the time, he believed the boy was his son.

RELATED: Attempted kidnapping of boy, 8, caught on camera

"I would like to express my deepest and most sincere apologies," he said in court. "Due to the duress and confusion in my mind, I had greatly mistaken the child for my own."

Higginbotham's 12-year-old son and the mother of Higginbotham's son, Kazia Valinor, both attended the sentencing hearing in support and said Higginbotham has struggled with homelessness and substance abuse for a long time.

Valinor said Higginbotham did not have a stable address or cellphone, but was known to be in Ocean Beach and she and her son would often travel there to see if they could find him in the area. Valinor said when she saw news stories about the incident, "It broke my heart because I knew it was a mistake."

The victim and his father did not attend the hearing, but Deputy District Attorney Eva Kilamyan said that the boy has been traumatized by the incident, suffers from nightmares, and does not want to go outside or to school.

The prosecutor said that "only (Higginbotham) knows what he was thinking that day," but said that due to the differing physical appearances between the victim and Higginbotham's son, "There was really no reason for him to believe that that was his son."

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