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Deliberations begin in trial for man accused of hate crime, throwing acid

Posted at 6:20 PM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 19:20:18-04

MILWAUKEE — The case of an alleged hate crime is now in the hands of a Milwaukee County jury.

Clifton Blackwell, 64, is charged with first degree reckless injury, with use of a dangerous weapon and hate crime modifiers.

Investigators say he threw acid in the face of Mahud Villalaz in 2019 near 13th and Cleveland following an argument over parking.

The jury heard closing arguments Wednesday afternoon. Deliberations began around 3:15 p.m. and paused for the evening shortly before 5 p.m. They will return Thursday morning to resume.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors pointed to testimony from Villalaz about what Blackwell said to him.

"Mr. Blackwell continues to say those extremely hateful things to him," said Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Bellows. "Telling him he's illegal. Don't you obey my laws? He keeps repeatedly saying that to Mr. Villalaz."

During this interaction, surveillance footage shows Blackwell remove a can of drain cleaner from his bag.

In testimony Monday, Villalaz said he flinched right before he was sprayed. He suffered second degree burns and spent two days in the hospital.

Blackwell testified Tuesday he thought he was going to get hit.

In closing arguments, prosecutors say there's not enough evidence for self-defense.

"He was not hit. He was not touched by Mr. Villalaz," Bellows said. "There was zero testimony from Mr. Blackwell or Mr. Villalaz that Mr. Villalaz said to him, 'I'm going to hit you'."

Blackwell testified he was waiting for the bus and worried the driver wouldn't see him because Villalaz's truck was in the way.

In their closing arguments, the defense team pointed out Villalaz moved his car and then returned to speak with Blackwell.

"I think you can conclude he did make the second encounter an argument again," said defense attorney Michael Plaisted.

He pointed to the video that shows Villalaz's movement right before he was splashed with acid.

"His fist is balled up," Plaisted said. "He's got his phone in his hand, leaning forward, and the punch is coming. Mr. Blackwell thought for sure the punch was coming."

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