Man convicted in racist 2019 acid attack in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A jury has convicted a white Milwaukee man who was accused of throwing acid on a Latino man’s face during a racist attack in 2019.

Clifton Blackwell, 64, was found guilty Thursday of first-degree reckless injury, with a dangerous weapon, as a hate crime. He faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing May 18.

The jury rejected Blackwell’s argument that he acted in self-defense after arguing with Mahud Villalaz over street parking in November 2019 in Milwaukee. He accused Villalaz, who suffered second-degree burns, of being in the country illegally and invading the United States.

Blackwell was waiting for a bus when he told Villalaz that he had parked his truck illegally in a bus stop zone outside a restaurant, prosecutors said. The two could be seen on surveillance video, but not heard, and Blackwell could be seen retrieving an aluminum bottle from his satchel.

Villalaz moved his truck to another parking spot and headed back toward the restaurant. The two argued again and Blackwell splashed the contents of the bottle, which was acidic drain cleaner, in Villalaz’s face.

Villalaz, 43, testified during the trial that his vision in his left eye has been permanently affected.

Blackwell said he carried the drain cleaner for self-defense at night because he’s disabled, and had been attacked on the streets before. He said he was scared when Villalaz got so angry, and splashed the liquid just as Villalaz made a fist and appeared to be about to strike him, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Villalaz is a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Peru. He testified he was angry at Blackwell for telling him he "invaded" his country and should "go back," but didn’t want to hurt anyone.

Blackwell was taken into custody after the verdict.