A young Georgia couple cried in court as they were sentence to a total of 28 years in prison on Monday for committing a hate crime at a young child’s birthday party.
Kayla Rae Norton, 25, and Jose Ismael Torres, 26, drove with a caravan of trucks waving confederate flags and antagonizing a Douglasville, Georgia family as they celebrated a boy’s eighth birthday party in 2015.
Norton expressed regret for her actions that day as she was forgiven in a court room by one of the party’s attendees, who told them that ‘life is too short for hate’.
Superior Court Judge William McClain delivered Torres a sentence to 20 years, with 13 served in prison, and Norton was given 15 years with six to serve in prison, the AJC reported.
Upon their release, the two have been barred from Douglas County. After interrupting the party they also terrorized a nearby Wal-Mart and convenience store.
The couple were members of a group called ‘Respect the Flag,’ and were joined by a caravan of other people who shouted at adults and children that they would ‘kill y’all n*****s,’ while proudly displaying confederate flags.
‘I do accept responsibility for what I’ve done,’ Norton said through tears.
She addressed the victims who were present in court, saying: ‘What happened to you is absolutely awful.
‘From mother to mother, I cannot imagine having to explain what that word means.’
Norton and Torres have three children together. Torres only shed tears when three family members took the stand to describe him as a devoted father, hardworking plumber and volunteer football coach.
Norton, however, spoke to the tearful victims in the packed courthouse.
‘The worst decision I’ve ever made in my life was to not walk away when I had the chance,’ Norton said.
One party attendee Hyesha Bryant clutched her chest and told the couple she forgave them, and had ‘no hate’ in her heart.
She also said: ‘I never thought this would be something I’d have to endure in 2017,’
‘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.’
Judge McClain noted to the defendants that their actions came less than a month after the fatal shooting of nine black men and women at a historic church in Charleston by 22-year-old Dylann Roof.