A judge has sentenced a Georgia couple to a combined 19 years in prison after they rode around in pickup trucks and made terroristic threats against African-Americans, including at a child’s birthday party, shortly after Dylann Roof killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina.
CNN reported that on Monday, Jose “Joe” Torres received a sentence of 20 years (13 in prison) for three counts of aggravated assault, one count of terroristic threats, and one count of breaking the Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. His girlfriend, Kayla Norton, received a sentence of 15 years (6 in prison) for one count of terroristic threats and one count of breaking the Street Gang Act law.
Apparently, the pair were involved with a group called “Respect the Flag.” Members rode around a suburban Atlanta community in a large convoy while streaming Confederate flags and yelling racial slurs.
Eventually, “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 Douglas County District Attorney’s office posted on Facebook.
Convoy participants got out of their trucks and confronted the victims on foot with weapons including knives, heavy metal objects, and shotguns. According to the statement, this is when Torres “threatened to kill the party goers while repeatedly using derogatory racial slurs against them.”
“Torres, who had retrieved a shotgun from his vehicle, pointed his shotgun at the group of African American party-goers and stated he was going to kill them while his co-defendants stated that ‘the little ones can get one too,’ referring to the young children at the party,” said the statement.
Norton yelled similar threats at the victims as well.
“Law enforcement was able to locate numerous posts and messages [on Facebook] indicating that members of the group were white supremacists who discussed attending KKK rallies, joining Skinheads Nation, and making numerous derogatory remarks about African Americans as a whole,” despite the pair’s professions of innocence in court.
“Many people tried to make the case about simply flying the Confederate Battle Flag,” Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner said in the 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.”
Assuming the couple are still together when they both get out of prison, the two are banished from Douglas Country for life.