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Clifton Blackwell sentenced to 10 years in prison for acid attack

Clifton Blackwell
Posted at 9:52 AM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 18:53:05-04

MILWAUKEE — The man convicted of throwing acid in the face of a Hispanic man during an argument has been sentenced.

Clifton Blackwell, 64, will spend the next 10 years in prison for a hate crime. When given the chance to speak to the victim, Blackwell doubled down, saying he still feared the man he attacked.

“You could’ve simply walked away, but you didn’t,” said Judge Jean Kies, the presiding judge.

Judge Keis pulled no punches as she sentenced Blackwell to 10 years in prison and five years of extended supervised release Wednesday.

“You told him when you encountered him, ‘Go back to your country, why did you invade my country.' Then, when you were satisfied with his answer, you thew acid in his face,” Kies said.

Blackwell was convicted of the acid attack in 2019. The victim, Mahud Villalaz, was left with third degree burns across his face after an argument about Mahud parking too close to a south side bus stop.

Judge Keis gave Blackwell the chance to speak.

“He still scares me very much. I regret that it all happened,” Blackwell said.

His response was shocking for both his own attorney and Villalaz himself.

“He testified about what his state of mind was in that moment and I think that's part of that,” said Michael Plaisted, Blackwell’s attorney.

"That's sad, because if he wouldn't have said that, it might've been less worse for him,” Villalaz said.

WATCH: Michael Plaisted talks about the trial:

Clifton Blackwell's attorney reacts to sentencing

Villalaz, a father of two boys, says he believes this sends them a message: hate won’t be tolerated.

“Justice prevailed,” he said.

The judge also says Blackwell won’t have the chance of parole for his sentencing, but he was granted 117 days (about four months) served for the crime.

Clifton Blackwell
Clifton Blackwell

Testimony from Clifton Blackwell

Blackwell testified he was waiting for the bus when Mahud Villalaz parked his truck near 13th and Cleveland. Worried the bus wouldn't see him, he says he asked Villalaz to move his truck. Blackwell testified he believes Villalaz was parked illegally in the bus zone.

"I said, why don't you obey the laws of my country, of this country?" Blackwell testified.

Blackwell testified Villalaz approached him. That's when Blackwell says he pulled out a can of drain cleaner, which he says he uses for protection.

Video shows they engage in conversation, and then Villalaz goes to move his truck. Video also shows he returns to talk to Blackwell.

"I sprayed a small amount of acid, just a swash," Blackwell testified.

Villalaz suffered second degree burns and testified previously he spent two days in the hospital.

Mahud Villalaz 2021 vs 2019
Mahud Villalaz 2021 vs 2019

Defense attorneys asked Villalaz during cross examination why he returned to speak with Blackwell after moving his car.

"Why would you step closer to someone other than to intimidate them?" defense attorney Michael Plaisted asked. 

"He was talking to me," Villalaz responded. 

He testified Blackwell made racist statements toward him. 

The defense attorney focused on Villalaz's movements just before he was sprayed.

"That's when you pretended you were going to punch him?" Plaisted asked. 

"No, I never pretended that I tried to punch him any time" Villalaz responded. "I flinched. There's a really big difference."

Mahud Villalaz
Mahud Villalaz testified in court on Monday to tell his side of the story after acid was thrown on his face in 2019.

Testimony from Mahud Villalaz

Villalaz testified Blackwell made racist comments towards him.

"Why can't you follow our laws? Go back to your country," Villalaz testified.

He testified he responded to Blackwell, "You don't know my status. I have the right to be here."

Villalaz emigrated from Peru to the United States and is a citizen.

He says he was out that night getting food. Once he encountered Blackwell, he moved his car. He says he came back and the conversation continued.

"Did you ever advance towards him?" the prosecutor asked during cross examination.

"I flinched," Villalaz testified.

Prosecutors showed the jury surveillance video they say shows the moment Blackwell threw the acid. It also shows Villalaz running inside a nearby restaurant for help.

He suffered second degree burns and spent two days in the hospital.

Blackwell was arrested a few days later.

"He was pretending, as he told the police, he was pretending to punch him," said defense attorney Michael Plaisted in opening statements. "That's why this happened. That's why he had acid thrown in his face."

"Mr. Blackwell thought his person was going to be interfered with," Plaisted said. "I think the evidence will show he had the right to defend himself with whatever he had."

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