Georgia couple sentenced to prison for racist threats at child's birthday party
A judge sentenced a Georgia couple to prison Monday after they were convicted of shouting racial slurs and making armed threats towards a group of African-Americans at a child's birthday party.
Jose Torres, 26, and Kayla Norton, 25, were sentenced to 20 years and 15 years in prison, respectively. The pair was charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats and violation of Georgia's Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.
The charges stem from an incident dating back to July 2015, in which Torres and Norton were involved with a Confederate flag-waving group, dubbed, "Respect the Flag." For two days, the pair reportedly rode around with other group members in pickup trucks making threats against black families and yelling racial slurs throughout two suburban counties in Atlanta.
See photos of the couple
"The convoy of trucks passed by the victim's residence where the victims were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers while hosting a child's birthday party featuring a bouncy castle, snow-cone machines, and a DJ," the office of District Attorney Brian Fortner posted on its official Facebook page.
Torres, a member of a smaller group that "threatened to kill the party goers while repeatedly using derogatory racial slurs against them," was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault, one count of terroristic threats and one count of violating of Georgia's Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.
Norton, who was accused of making similar threats, was convicted on one count of terroristic threats and one count of violation of the Street Gang Act.
"Many people tried to make the case about simply flying the Confederate Battle Flag," Fortner told CNN in a statement. "This case was about a group of people riding around our community, drinking alcohol, harassing and intimidating our citizens because of the color of their skin."
Members of the jury listened Monday as Norton, who has three children, fought to hold back tears when apologizing to the child's family.
"For your child to look at you and ask you what that means it breaks my heart," Norton said.
Emotions ran high in the courtroom as parents and family members in the crowd looked on.
"What you said affected my life. It affected my children's lives," said Hyesha Bryant, a member of the family who attended the party.
But Bryant told Norton later, "I forgive you, I forgive all of you."
Reports say that 15 members of the Respect the Flag group were indicted originally, however the disposition of their cases is unknown. As for Torres and Norton, both are said to be banished from Douglas County once they have fulfilled their sentences.