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Acid-Throwing Robber Is Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison : Crime: Arleta man gets the maximum for blinding and disfiguring a driver at a Van Nuys intersection.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Arleta man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday for a robbery in which he threw sulfuric acid into the face of his victim, leaving him blind and disfigured.

Henry Gregory Tristan, 43, was sentenced by Van Nuys Superior Court Judge James M. Coleman for robbery, mayhem and assault with a caustic chemical in the Sept. 5, 1989, attack on Andres Chaidez, 22, at a Van Nuys intersection.

Chaidez, a laborer who authorities said had recently come from Mexico in search of a better life, was in a car at Haskell Avenue and Bassett Street when Tristan approached him and demanded money, according to trial testimony.

When Chaidez refused, Tristan threw a cupful of concentrated sulfuric acid in his face.

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Chaidez hit the car’s accelerator and attempted to escape but crashed about a block from the attack and rolled out of his car, screaming in pain, according to investigators. Police said Chaidez came up and calmly searched the injured man’s pockets for cash before stealing his car.

He was arrested about a month after the attack, after police received a tip on his whereabouts. He was linked to the crime through a fingerprint found on the cup that contained the acid.

During his trial, Tristan said he was near the intersection when the attack occurred but denied committing the crime.

He said Chaidez was a drug dealer, but authorities said they have no evidence supporting the claim.

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A jury convicted Tristan Nov. 19 of aggravated mayhem, which carries a life sentence. However, Coleman reduced the charge to a count of mayhem Tuesday after Tristan’s attorney, Bruce Hill, argued that under new guidelines for instructing juries, jurors did not receive the necessary instructions from Coleman to return a verdict of aggravated mayhem.

Coleman then sentenced Tristan to the maximum prison term allowable on the charges.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Maureen O’Brien said she was frustrated by the reduction of the charges, but satisfied with the maximum term Tristan received.

“I am happy he got a sentence that will keep him in custody,” she said. “I can at least take consolation in that.”

Tristan had been arrested at least 20 times for crimes ranging from drug possession to robbery, according to court records. He also admitted to authorities that he had used heroin for 20 years, records show.

In a case similar to the Chaidez robbery, Tristan was convicted in 1983 of a robbery in which he sprayed tear gas into a woman’s face, threw her to the ground and then took her purse.

Tristan, a door-and-screen repairman, did not speak during his sentencing Tuesday. His victim, who was burned over 24% of his body and left permanently blind by the attack, did not attend the hearing.


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