US Confederate flag pair jailed over threats to Georgia black family

Media caption, Georgia couple who threatened black family sob in court

Two people found guilty of threatening a black family at a child's birthday party in the US state of Georgia have received lengthy prison sentences.

Jose Torres, 26, and Kayla Norton, 25, both wept as the Douglas County judge handed down sentencing on Monday.

They will serve 13 years and six years in prison respectively, local media report.

Superior Court Judge William McClain said the two were "motivated by racial hatred".

They are part of a group of at least 15 people charged over the incident in which cars were driven along the street flying the Confederate battle flag in Douglasville, west of Atlanta, in July 2015.

Image source, AP
Image caption, Jose Torres, 26, and Kayla Norton, 25, wept as they were sentenced

The crime occurred shortly after a mass shooting inside an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina by a white supremacist gunman.

Photos emerged after the Charleston shooting of the killer, Dylann Roof, holding the Confederate flag and a handgun.

The Confederate battle flag became a potent symbol for residents of the southern states that fought against the north during the Civil War. It is considered by some to be a symbol of slavery and racism.

More on the Confederate flag

Media caption, A Black Lives Matter protester goes airborne in South Carolina to snatch a Confederate flag

The couple are among four who were charged with performing criminal acts, the other two pleaded guilty and are serving shorter prison terms.

Torres and Norton were found guilty of threatening to kill some of those attending the child's party while shouting racial slurs at children.

Torres was said to have been carrying a shotgun, according to prosecutors. He was sentenced for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and for violating Georgia's street gang and terrorism prevention laws.

Norton was found in violation of the same state laws and was sentenced for threatening behaviour.

"This is behaviour that even supporters of the Confederate battle flag can agree is criminal and shouldn't be allowed,'' Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner said.

The incident involved members of the group Respect the Flag, who drove cars and trucks decorated with the Confederate banner past the party in Douglasville causing a disruption.

Residents at the time told local media that the people in the vehicles were shouting racial slurs, but the group said they were attacked.

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