WASHINGTON: A white couple have been handed heavy prison sentences in Georgia for shouting slurs and death threats at guests at a black child’s birthday party.
A Georgia state court sentenced the two, Joel Torres and Kayla Norton, a respective 20 years and 15 years in prison on Monday.
They were convicted of making terroristic threats and violating the state’s Street Gang Terrorism Prevention Act, according to local media. Torres also was convicted of aggravated assault.
In July 2015, the couple were part of a group riding in pickup trucks draped with the Confederate flag, the South’s flag in the Civil War and today considered a symbol of racism by many Americans.
After harassing African-American drivers, the convoy stopped in front of the home of a black family in Douglasville who were celebrating the birthday of an eight-year-old child.
One member of the group, which calls itself Respect the Flag, brandished a shotgun, while others hurled insults and threatened to kill the partygoers.
The display of the controversial flag was not at issue in the case as it is protected by the US Constitution’s free speech guarantee, said Brian Fortner, the Douglas County prosecutor.
“Instead, 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,” he said in a statement.
“They used racial slurs and threatened to kill some of the partygoers. They even threatened to kill children at the party.”
More than one hundred and fifty years after the end of the US Civil War, racism still afflicts the United States.
Torres and Norton’s sentencing came less than two months after a federal judge in South Carolina sentenced white supremacist Dylann Roof to death over the killing of nine black churchgoers in June 2015.