DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga. - A judge sentenced two people to prison Monday for their involvement in a confrontation at a child's birthday party that involved weapons and the Confederate flag.
In July 2015, just weeks after the Charleston church massacre, a large group of people drove up to a birthday party in Douglasville in trucks, flying American, military and Confederate flags. According to prosecutors, about 15 people, several pointing guns, were riding through town that day with a group called "Respect the Flag."
The child's mother, Melissa Alford, said the group walked up to her property and threatened her family.
The people accused in the case said the confrontation started when someone at the party threw an object at one of the trucks, but the mother's accusations and video of the incident were enough to charge two people, Kayla Norton and Jose Torres, with aggravated assault, making terroristic threats and violating the Georgia Street Gang Act, for which they were found guilty earlier this month.
Monday morning, a judge sentenced Torres to 20 years in prison, with 13 to serve. Norton was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with six to serve.
"If you drive around town with a Confederate flag, yelling the N-word, you know how it's going to be interpreted," Judge William McClain said. "It's inexplicable to me that you weren't arrested by the police that day.
With tears in her eyes, Norton spoke directly to several of the family members who were at the party.
"What happened to you was horrible. Mother-to-mother, I can't imagine what it was like to explain what that word means to a child. I accept responsibility for what I did, but that was not me," the 25-year-old mother said fighting back tears in her eyes.
According to Douglas County prosecutors, Norton was not one of riders who pointed shotguns at the adults and children in the yard of the Douglasville home, but Assistant District Attorney David Emadi she was among many who hurled menacing threats while yelling the N-word.
"They repeatedly yelled death threats saying they were going to killing all the N----. They said, 'We'll blow the heads off all the little b------ and the little n----- can get one too,'" Emadi told Judge William McClain during the sentencing hearing.
Hyesha Bryant was at the party with her 3 children and other loved ones and responded to Norton's apology.
"We all have to be held accountable for our actions. I forgive you. I forgive all of you. I am not a mean spirited person and I'm sorry for your family that it had to come this far," Bryant said as Norton and Torres wept.
No shots were fired that day, but Judge McClain said the group's actions were still quite harmful.
"I don't think it's a coincidence that this incident happened one month after the Charleston shooting," Judge McClain said speaking directly to both convicts. "I suppose confederate flags can be interpreted different ways and different contexts, but if you're driving around waving Confederate flags and using the N-word everywhere you go, then there's only one way to interpret that," he said.
Both convicts wept as the judge sentenced Torres to 20 years with 13 to serve and Norton to 15 years with 6 to serve. Thomas Summers, 46 and Lacey Henderson, 38, accepted plea deals in the case. They are serving four and two years respectively. Other defendants were charged with misdemeanors and ordered to perform community service.