Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Man Guilty of Brutal Beating; 'Web of Evidence' Convicts Him in an Attack That Left Victim without Eyeballs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Man Guilty of Brutal Beating; 'Web of Evidence' Convicts Him in an Attack That Left Victim without Eyeballs

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

Anthony Blakely was satisfied with guilty verdicts against the Jacksonville man who cut his eyeballs out during a 2008 attack, but he said it's still hard to grasp how much of life's beauty was stolen from him that night.

"It brings closure, but it's still a little empty," Blakely said minutes after a jury convicted Foster Rayfield Leon of kidnapping and attempted second-degree murder with a weapon.

Leon, a 32-year-old career criminal, faces a life prison sentence. Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper said she would schedule sentencing the week of May 3.

Blakely, 40, was a disc jockey at Starlite Cafe in Five Points the night of July 4, 2008, when Leon first befriended him then turned on him. He told different people at the bar that Blakely was looking at his girlfriend or that he wouldn't play one of her requests.

Blakely testified during the two-day trial that Leon beat him unconscious in front of the Starlite then was beating him again when he awoke a few blocks away on Herschel Street. When he came to again, his eyeballs were laying on his cheeks and half his right ear had been cut off.

Assistant State Attorney Alan Mizrahi praised Blakely's courage in coming forward and identifying his attacker.

"It would have been very easy for Mr. Blakely to say 'I don't know who did this to me' as a means of protecting himself," Mizrahi said. "I can imagine how scared he was. The defendant was counting on the fact that he wouldn't come in."

Blakely is learning Braille and specialized computer programs for blind. He said he still struggles with feelings of anger and the adjustment of losing his sight at 38.

"I'd like to be a voice for those who've suffered life-changing atrocities like I have," he said. "Life is tough, but you can make it."

Jurors deliberated about 95 minutes before reaching their verdict. Leon leaned back in his chair but showed little outward reaction. Blakely was hugged by his father after the decision was announced.

In closing arguments Thursday, Leon's lawyer hammered away at inconsistencies in statements by the various witnesses, including Blakely and urged jurors not to be swayed by sympathy or gruesome photographs of Blakely's injuries. …

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