RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two suspects arrested in connection to an alleged Independence Day mass shooting plot appeared in court in Richmond on Monday.
Julio Cesar Alvarado-Dubon, 52, appeared before Presiding Judge Claire Cardwell in Richmond Circuit Court for a bond appeal. He was initially granted a $15,000 bond by Richmond City General District Court Chief Judge David Hicks, which was then stayed on Thursday, July 7. However, on Monday, Cardwell denied the bond for Alvarado-Dubon.
Rolman Balacarcel Ac, 38, appeared in Manchester General District Court Monday morning via video chat from his jail cell for arraignment.
Both suspects have been charged with gun possession by an unlawful alien, a Class 6 felony in Virginia.
“It’s not a charge that we see very often,” 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone said. “The charges that they have do not have anything to do with a mass shooting. They are simply charged with possessing firearms while being illegal aliens in the United States.”
On July 6, the Richmond Police Department (RPD) announced that a mass shooting plot had been foiled, thanks to a tip from a “hero citizen” and the work of law enforcement. This came one day after Balacarcel was arrested in Charlottesville.
Authorities said that the tip led them to a home on Columbia Street, where, on July 1, they found Alvarado-Dubon and several weapons and rounds of ammunition, which were seized. According to RPD, Balacarcel remained under surveillance throughout the weekend until he was taken into custody on July 5.
“The whole speculation and talk of a mass shooting is a curious development because if there was evidence of that, there are certainly other charges that could be placed,” Stone said. “We can’t assume that that means that they don’t have that evidence. But we can certainly say that a mass shooting is not what has been charged at this point.”
Neither the attorney representing Alvarado-Dubon nor the Commonwealth would provide comment to 8News at the courthouse on Monday.
8News had also previously reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA), but a spokesperson could not comment on whether the office was involved in either suspect’s case.
“It is often the case that state authorities and federal authorities will work together,” Stone said. “It very well could be that the federal government is looking into placing some additional charges and they have just arrested on this charge for purposes of essentially holding them for a little while.”
Court documents show that neither Alvarado-Dubon nor Balacarcel has a criminal history. However, sources confirmed to 8News last week that Balacarcel had previously been deported twice. Documents also noted that he was considered “possibly likely to obstruct/threaten/injure/intimidate.”
“From the point of view of the criminal justice system, they are handled in exactly the same way a citizen would be. They have the same right to counsel, the right to remain silent, right to jury trial — all of the same rights apply, whether you’re a citizen or non-citizen,” Stone said. “The only real impact that not being a citizen has is that if they are convicted, there can be consequences as far as immigration.”
Documents revealed that Alvarado-Dubon was living in the U.S. on an expired visa.
He is due in court on Tuesday, Aug. 2, for a preliminary hearing, while Balacarcel has his preliminary hearing set for Wednesday, Aug. 3.
“What will happen on that date is the Commonwealth will have to present evidence to a judge to establish that they have probable cause to believe that this offense, the one that they are charged with, occurred, which, I suspect, would mean they’re going to have to prove that they were in possession of these firearms and they are here illegally,” Stone said. “Maybe there is some aspect of this case that we just don’t know yet.”