A Georgia judge has sentenced two white-supremacist gang members to a combined 19 years in prison for their role in an assault on an 8-year-old's birthday party, reports NPR. Kayla Norton, 25, and Jose "Joe" Torres, 26, were part of a group called Respect the Flag that targeted people of color with racist slurs and threatened to murder them. They have three children together.
"I'm so sorry that happened to you," Norton said during the pair's sentencing on Monday, addressing the family they had attacked. "I am so sorry." She told the court that she accepts responsibility for her actions.
She then turned to the families who had attended the party and said: "But I want you all to know that that is not me. That is not me."
Superior Court Judge William "Beau" McClain handed down 13 years in prison and seven years of probation for Torres, and six years in prison with nine years of probation for Norton. Both of them are also banished from Douglas County, Georgia, where they had been living.
The jury found Torres and Norton guilty of making "terroristic threats," and violating the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. The jury convicted Torres of aggravated assault.
The assault happened in July 2015, which was just one month after white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine congregation members at the historically Black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, during a prayer service.
The gang's alcohol-fueled rampage began by getting into their Confederate flag-decorated pickup trucks and threatening Black motorists on the road. Once they arrived at the child's birthday party — which included a cookout and a moon bounce — the group got out of their trucks and threatened to kill the guests.
"Victims and witnesses from the party, who were predominantly African-American, testified to observing the group of trucks whose passengers were hurling a litany of racial slurs at them as they passed by," said the prosecutors. Some other members of the racist group are currently also serving prison time.
On Monday, Hyesha Bryant, one of the partygoers, testified for the victims and said she forgave the perpetrators.
"I never thought this would be something I'd have to endure in 2017," Bryant said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "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 continued: "I forgive you. I forgive all of you. I don't have any hate in my heart. Life is too short for that."