A Wisconsin man has been sentenced for throwing acid in the face of a Latino man in what authorities say was a racially motivated attack.
Clifton Blackwell, 64, was handed a 10-year prison sentence for maiming Peruvian-born Mahud Villalaz, 43, in 2019, according to ABC Milwaukee affiliate WISN-TV. Villalaz, a U.S. citizen since 2013, survived the attack but suffered burns to his face and eye, causing life-long injuries.
Although Blackwell claimed he acted in self-defense, a Milwaukee County jury found him guilty of first-degree reckless injury with a deadly weapon on April 28, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The attack was classified as a hate crime.
On top of a 10-year sentence, Blackwell must also be subject to five years of supervised release, according to WISN-TV.
“We’re all different from one another,” Judge Jean Marie Kies said at Wednesday’s sentencing. “When we let those differences cloud our judgment, that’s bias or prejudice or discrimination, and in this instance, it is hate.”
On Nov. 1, 2019, Blackwell was waiting for a bus outside a restaurant at South 13th Street and West Cleveland Avenue when Villalaz reportedly parked his vehicle in a no-park zone. The men, who did not know one another, began arguing when Blackwell called the victim “an illegal,” accused him of “invading” the U.S., and demanded he go back to his country.
As the argument continued, Blackwell reached in his satchel and pulled out an aluminum bottle, as seen in surveillance video that captured the exchange.
Villalaz then returned to his truck and moved it before attempting to go into the restaurant when the argument commenced once more. This time, Blackwell threw the contents of the bottle, which was filled with drain cleaner, at Villalaz’s face.
Blackwell’s attorney, who claimed his client acted in self-defense, said Blackwell regularly carried the “poor man’s mace” for fears of a possible attack. The defendant claimed he feared Villalaz after Villalaz allegedly balled his fists and readied to punch him – something Villalaz has denied.
Prosecutors called foul on the self-defense claims, alleging Blackwell acted because of the color of the victim’s skin.
Prosecutors supported their stance by presenting past writings from Blackwell, including a 2019 letter previously written to then-U.S. President Donald Trump, according to the Journal-Sentinel.
“None of them have any business being in my country,” wrote Blackwell. “They are parasites on the public purse.”
At sentencing, Blackwell said he was still afraid of Villalaz.
“I regret that it all happened,” said Blackwell. “I’m still scared I could drop dead of a heart attack right now, as far as I know. I would definitely do it differently.”
But Villalaz questioned the sincerity of Blackwell’s remorse.
“This was embarrassing that he said he was still afraid of me. If we would have heard an apology from him, the sentence may have been different, but he chose not to,” said Villalaz. “This shouldn’t happen. If this happens to anyone, we need to speak up. We can’t tolerate hate. This is America. We have rights, and we have to fight for them.”
Judge Kies said she, too, failed to see Blackwell’s remorse, stating she had to send the message that there is no place for hate in the world.
“I’m sure (the acid) was absolutely painful,” said Judge Kies. “And you caused him emotional distress that I think is never going to heal. You made him feel he’s not worthy, and that’s diabolical.”
Blackwell faced a maximum of 30 years behind bars. He was also ordered to have no further contact with the victim.