Villalaz, Blackwell share testimony during intense 2nd day of hate crime trial

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The intensity increased during the second day of the trial of a Milwaukee man charged with a hate crime for throwing acid at a Latino man.

The defense began the second day with cross examination of the victim of the acid attack, Mahud Villalaz, a U.S. citizen from Peru.

Blackwell's attorney, Michael Plaisted, aimed to frame the case as one of his client trying to defend himself against Villalaz. The two got into an argument near 13th and Cleveland on the city's south side in November 2019 over Villalaz parking near a bus stop. After an initial argument, Villalaz eventually moved his truck to a different parking spot but the two eventually reengaged in an argument when he returned.

It was the second interaction that led to the acid being thrown at Villalaz's face. Plaisted showed security video that showed Villalaz move in the direction of Blackwell, a move Blackwell claimed was indicative of Villalaz starting to assault him. Plaisted asked Villalaz if the moment just prior to the acid throwing was when he was angriest. Villalaz said yes.

"And that's when you pretended to throw a punch at him?" Plaisted asked.

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

The state emphasized Villalaz never touched Blackwell at any point.

"Your hands never left, the hands, of your torso, when moving forward, not even that full step to him, is that correct?" asked Assistant District Attorney Jessica Bellows.

"Yes," Villalaz said.

Then came another key moment in the trial: Clifton Blackwell's testimony.

Blackwell said he feared for his safety.

"He balled up his fist and he was going to punch me," Blackwell said, describing the moment just before he threw acid at Villalaz's face.

The state highlighted Blackwell's comments at Villalaz, specifically how Blackwell told Villalaz to obey the laws of Blackwell's country, implying Vllalaz was not an American and in the U.S. illegally.

"Based on his accent you assumed he was an illegal?" Bellows asked.

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

Evidence also shared with the jury included letters from Blackwell where he writes disparagingly about minorities, including Latinos and African Americans.

Closing arguments are expected Wednesday.

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