Video by Fox 5 Atlanta
A Georgia couple was sentenced to years in prison Monday for shouting racial slurs and threatening black adults and children at a child’s birthday party in 2015, prosecutors said.
Georgia Superior Court Judge William McClain sentenced Jose Torres, 26, and Kayla Norton, 25, to 20 years and 15 years in prison, respectively. During Monday’s sentencing, the judge said the couple’s involvement in the July 2015 confrontation was “motivated by racial hatred,” the Associated Press reported.
A jury gave the couple a guilty verdict earlier this month on several counts of aggravated assault, making “terroristic threats” and violating Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.
In 2015, Torres and Norton were members of a group of Confederate flag supporters, many of whom belonged to the group known as Respect the Flag. For two days, the couple and the nearly dozen others waved the flags while aboard pickup trucks and targeted their slurs and threats at black families in counties outside Atlanta.
In Douglasville, the couple, among others, reportedly yelled racial slurs at the birthday party’s attendees as they drove by. Torres also threatened to kill the people at the party with a shotgun Norton had loaded and retrieved from his truck, the district attorney’s office said in a statement on Facebook.
The Douglasville family called the police. In a YouTube video posted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, pickup trucks equipped with Confederate flags drive by when police officers are responding to the call.
Video by SPLC
The racist incident occurred shortly after the Charleston church massacre, which prompted the removal of several Confederate battle flags in various locations around the state.
A review of thousands of Facebook records also revealed many posts and messages that linked the group to white supremacy, the district attorney said, including discussions over attending KKK rallies and derogatory remarks about black people.
The couple faces probation after serving their prison time and are both banished from Douglas County. While other members of Respect the Flag were charged with felonies for their involvement in the incident, some received shorter sentences after they pleaded guilty.
Torres and Norton broke down in tears at their sentencing. Turning to the victims, Norton said she accepted responsibility for her actions and regretted her participation in the crime.
“The worst decision I’ve ever made in my life was to not walk away when I had the chance,” Norton said. “That is not me. That is not me. That is not him. I would never walk up to you and say those words to you and I am so sorry that happened to you,” she added.
Hyesha Bryant, who attended the party in 2015, addressed the couple in the sentencing as well.
“I never thought this would be something I’d have to endure in 2017,” Bryant said. “As adults and parents, we have to instill in our children the values of right and wrong. That moment you had to choose to leave, you stayed,” she added.
Bryant then said she forgave the couple and all the others involved in the incident.
“I don’t have any hate in my heart. Life is too short for that,” she said.