Clifton Blackwell found guilty of hate crime in acid attack of Latino man

NOW: Clifton Blackwell found guilty of hate crime in acid attack of Latino man

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A jury found Clifton Blackwell guilty for throwing acid at a Latino man in 2019.

After about five hours of deliberations, the jury found Blackwell, 64, guilty of first-degree reckless injury use of a dangerous weapon as a hate crime.

The trial focused on an incident in November 2019. Blackwell was waiting for a bus near 13th and Cleveland after getting groceries. Muhad Villalaz had initially parked his pickup truck in the bus stop lane.

That is what sparked the incident. According to Blackwell, he told Villalaz several times parking in that spot was illegal and would result in his truck being ticketed and towed. He also asked Villalaz why he didn't obey the laws of Blackwell's country, implying Villalaz was not a U.S. citizen. That moment was part of the prosecution's case that what Blackwell committed was hate crime because they alleged

Blackwell targeted Villalaz based on his ethnicity, nationality or immigration status.

"Based on his accent you assumed he was an illegal?" Assistant District Attorney Jessica Bellows asked Blackwell during cross examination.

"No, I did not assume that he was an illegal," Blackwell replied. "I used that as a jabbing point."

During testimony, Blackwell also claimed he feared for his safety.

Security video shows Villalaz and Blackwell arguing with Blackwell taking out a can from his bag but eventually Villalaz retreats to his pickup and moves it to park in a different spot.

When he returned, the two argued again. Villalaz told police and jurors Blackwell called him an "illegal." At the climax of the interaction, Villalaz called Blackwell a "racist [explitive]." Video shows Villalaz move forward towards Blackwell and that is when Blackwell throws acid at Villalaz.

Blackwell's attorney aimed to frame the moment as one where Villalaz was about to attack Blackwell and Blackwell acted in self-defense, throwing the acid.

"And that's when you pretended to throw a punch at him?" Plaisted asked during cross examination of Villalaz.

"No, I never pretend that I try to hurt him at any time," Villalaz said. "I flinched. Which is a really big difference."

The jury ultimately convicted Blackwell of the greater charge of first-degree reckless injury, even after Judge Jean Kies allowed them to consider a lesser charge of second-degree reckless injury. The jury also had to consider if Blackwell used a dangerous weapon and committed a hate crime, which they did.

Sentencing is set for May 18. Blackwell faces up to 20 years in prison.

Watch the verdict being read below:

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