MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin — Clifton Blackwell, the Milwaukee man accused of throwing acid last week on a Hispanic man who is a U.S. citizen born in Peru, is being charged in Wisconsin circuit court with a hate crime, according to a criminal complaint.
Blackwell, 61, faces one count of first-degree reckless injury, the complaint says.
State law stipulates that if the defendant “intentionally selects the person against whom the crime … is committed … in whole or in part because of the actor’s belief or perception regarding the race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry of that person” a hate crime enhancement of five years could be added to a sentence.
If convicted, Blackwell could be sentenced to up to 35 years in prison because the alleged hate crime involved the use of a weapon, which can also add five years to a sentence.
It is unclear whether Blackwell has an attorney.
Online jail records show a bail of $20,000 has been set and indicate Blackwell was in custody as of Wednesday evening.
CNN affiliate WTMJ reported Blackwell made an initial appearance Wednesday.
Mahud Villalaz, who came to America in 2001 and became a US citizen in 2013, suffered second-degree burns after a man threw acid on him. Villalaz told police his attacker accused him of invading the United States.
Villalaz, 42, said at a Wednesday news conference that he feels better and he just wants to move on from this situation.
“It has been wonderful to see that there are many people who worry about others, not only Latinos but white people… everybody,” he said in Spanish, when asked to answer in that language. “Let’s unite and live in peace with our neighbors.”
Craig Mastantuono, an attorney for Villalaz, says they have not yet decided whether to sue Blackwell.
The criminal complaint says Blackwell last week yelled at Villalaz for parking his truck too close to a bus stop.
“The defendant then stated ‘Why did you invade my country?’ and ‘Why don’t you respect my laws?’ ” the complaint says.
Villalaz moved his truck, the complaint says, and Blackwell yelled “Why did you invade my country?” again. He told Villalaz to “Go back, go back (expletive),” and called Villalaz an “illegal,” Assistant District Attorney Alex Mueller writes in the complaint.
Villalaz said he called Blackwell a “racist (expletive)” and said all Americans came from somewhere else, the complaint says.
The court document says Blackwell threw a liquid in Villalaz’s face and later police found acids at Blackwell’s home.