The couple had a leading role in a convoy that terrorized guests at black child's birthday party last summer.
A Georgia couple, 26-year-old Jose Torres and 25-year-old Kayla Norton, wept in court as they received their respective prison sentences on Monday. They were sentenced for terrorizing black attendees at an outdoor children's birthday party in July of last year. Judge William McClain determined that their actions were "motivated by racial hatred," reports WBS-TV.
Torres and Norton were part of a group of pickup trucks that drove around Douglas County and Paulding County, suburban communities outside of Atlanta. Those involved were part of a group called Respect the Flag, which law enforcement found to be a white supremacist organization.
Upon stopping outside of the birthday party, those in the convoy are said to have yelled racial slurs as well as death threats at the black partygoers, including the children. Torres pointed a shotgun at the guests and threatened to kill them. Threats were also uttered by Norton, who has three children with Torres.
The Respect the Flag group conducted two drunken, racially-fueled rampages on July 24 and July 25 -- when they stopped at the birthday party -- of 2015. They are also accused of menacing black motorists and black shoppers at a Paulding County Wal-Mart as well as a convenience store.
"Many people tried to make the case about simply flying the Confederate Battle Flag," Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner said 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."
Fifteen members of Respect the Flag were originally indicted for their participation in the two-day frenzy. Only four, including Torres and Norton, have been charged with felonies. The sentences of Torres and Norton are the most severe that have thus far been reported on.
Torres will serve 13 years of a 20-year sentence, as he was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault, one count of making terroristic threats, and one count of violating of Georgia's Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. Norton was convicted on one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violation of the Street Gang Act. She will serve six years of a 15-year sentence.
Before her sentencing, Norton tearfully addressed the courtroom, including persons who she threatened at the birthday party. “The worst decision I’ve ever made in my life was to not walk away when I had the chance,” Norton said, while Torres sobbed beside her. "That is not me. That is not him."