Man Sentenced For Racially Motivated Acid Attack On Man He Accused Of 'Invading' The Country
A Wisconsin man has been convicted of throwing acid in the face of a Latino man in what authorities say was a racially motivated assault.
Clifton Blackwell, 64, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for mutilating Peruvian-born Mahud Villalaz, 43, in 2019, according to ABC Milwaukee affiliate WISN-TV. Villalaz, a US citizen since 2013, survived the attack but suffered burns to his face and eye that caused lifelong injuries.
Although Blackwell claimed he acted in self-defense, a Milwaukee County jury found him guilty of first-degree reckless assault with a deadly weapon on April 28, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The attack was classified as a hate crime.
In addition to a 10-year sentence, Blackwell also faces a five-year supervised release, according to WISN-TV.
"We are all different," Judge Jean Marie Kies said at the verdict on Wednesday. "When we allow these differences to cloud our judgment, that's bias or prejudice or discrimination, and in this case it's hate."
On November 1, 2019, Blackwell was waiting for a bus outside a restaurant on South 13th Street and West Cleveland Avenue when Villalaz reportedly parked his vehicle in a no-parking zone. The men, who didn't know each other, began arguing when Blackwell called the victim "an illegal individual," accused him of "invading" the US and demanded that he return to his country.
As the argument continued, Blackwell reached into his pocket and pulled out an aluminum bottle, as seen in surveillance video that recorded the exchange.
Villalaz then returned to his truck and moved it before attempting to go into the restaurant as the argument started again. This time, Blackwell threw the contents of the bottle, which was filled with drain cleaner, in Villalaz's face.
Blackwell's attorney, who claimed his client acted in self-defense, said Blackwell regularly carried the "poor man's mace" for fear of possible attack. The defendant claimed he feared Villalaz after Villalaz allegedly clenched his fists and prepared to punch him - something Villalaz has denied.
Prosecutors called the self-defense claims foul and claimed Blackwell acted because of the victim's skin color.
Prosecutors supported their stance by presenting previous writings by Blackwell, including a 2019 letter previously written to the then US government. President Donald Trump, according to the Journal-Sentinel.
"None of them have any business in my country," Blackwell wrote. "They are parasites on the public purse."
At sentencing, Blackwell said he was still afraid of Villalaz.
"I regret all of this happened," Blackwell said. "As far as I know, I'm still scared that I might drop dead of a heart attack right now. I would definitely do it differently.”
But Villalaz questioned the sincerity of Blackwell's remorse.
"It was embarrassing that he said he was still scared of me. If we had heard an apology from him, the verdict might have been different, but he decided against it," Villalaz said. "This must not happen. If this happens to anyone, we need to talk about it. We cannot tolerate hate. This is America. We have rights and we must fight for them.”
Judge Kies said she too failed to see Blackwell's remorse and said she must send the message that there is no place for hatred in the world.
"I'm sure [the acid] was absolutely painful," said Judge Kies. "And you caused him emotional distress that I don't think will ever heal. You made him feel like he wasn't worth it, and that's devilish."
Blackwell faced a maximum of 30 years behind bars. He was also ordered to have no further contact with the victim.
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