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Woman convicted of racially motivated confrontation at child's birthday party released from prison

A victim of that disturbing day said she didn't know until she saw Kayla Rae Norton walking free. That's when she called the district attorney.

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. — A white woman who was originally sentenced to several years in prison for terrorizing a Black eight-year-old child's birthday party was freed after only about two years.

But a victim of that disturbing day in Douglasville said she only found out when she saw that woman, Kayla Rae Norton, walking the streets.

The conviction of Norton on terroristic threats charges stemmed from a 2015 racially-motivated confrontation that was caught on cell phone video. Norton and more than a dozen others who called themselves "Respect The Flag" - a group that supports the display of the Confederate battle flag - drove around with the flag in their vehicles.

At that time, the District Attorney said Norton joined others when they stopped near a house where a group of people was celebrating a child's birthday. That's when the couple and others allegedly yelled racial slurs.

Another person convicted for that crime, Jose "Joe" Torres, allegedly pointed a shotgun at the crowd as well.

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That confrontation came just days after the massacre at a Charleston church were nine Black people were killed in a racially-motived mass shooting.

The lengthy sentences for both Norton and Torres made national headlines. Norton was sentenced to 15 years with six served in prison and Torres to a 19-year sentence.

While Torress remains in jail, the woman who was also convicted alongside him has been free since as far back as Sept. 2019.

Ryan R. Leonard, the district attorney for the Douglas Judicial Circuit, said he was contacted by the victim in early March after she spotted who she thought was Norton out on the street.

Jose Torres and Kayla Norton sob uncontrollably as their sentencing for making racist deaths threats is handed.

Leonard said his office confirmed Norton's release and then helped get her signed up for notifications on future parole actions involving other defendants in that case.

However, he also said they had briefed the victim and others on how to sign up for notifications regarding the status of both defendants back when they were sentenced in 2017.

"From our notes, it appears that we notified the victims in person and in writing of how to register to receive parole notifications, as per our practice," Leonard said.

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The district attorney also provided additional information regarding his office's dealing with Norton since she was convicted and sentenced.

He said Norton appealed her conviction and the District Attorney's Office opposed the motion for a new trial. The office filed a brief in opposition to a new trial and the trial court denied her motion on Jan. 2, 2020.

Norton moved to withdraw her appeal on March 12, 2020 - months after she had been paroled - and the Court of Appeals dismissed her appeal six days later.

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections
Kayla Rae Norton

A spokesperson for the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Steve Hayes, said Norton became eligible for parole on Feb. 3, 2019, after serving one-third of her total prison sentence.

"She was paroled on September 27, 2019, after serving a total of 32 months," Hayes said. "Her sentence ends on February 2, 2023."

He said she remains under the supervision of the Department of Community Supervision. He added that most people convicted of a crime are eligible for after serving one-third of their sentence - as long as they were granted eligibility in the first place.

Hayes also pointed out that Norton will have to serve on probation even after the six-year portion of the sentence ends in 2023.

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