RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Rolman Balcarcel-Bavagas, one of two men swept up in a supposed mass shooting plot for which solid evidence has not materialized, was sentenced to 5.5 months in prison on a single immigration charge to which he pleaded guilty.
Balcarcel — along with his roommate, Julio Cesar Alvarado-Dubon — was accused by former Police chief Gerald smith and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney of plotting a mass shooting at a packed celebration at Dogwood Dell on July 4.
But in October, prosecutors admitted in court documents that they had insufficient evidence to bring any charges related to a mass shooting plot against Balcarcel. Instead, he was charged with illegal re-entry, a charge he pleaded guilty to in August.
Now, Balcarcel will serve another 1.5 months in jail — with the four months he’s already served counted against his sentence — before the Department of Homeland Security begins a “deportation review” during which it will be determined whether he is deported.
During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, the judge overseeing Balcarcel’s case said she couldn’t consider either the anonymous tip that triggered the mass shooting investigation nor the guns found in Dubon and Balcarcel’s home when setting his sentence.
Building the Sentence
In a sentencing letter submitted ahead of Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors said that Balcarcel was had repeatedly violated immigration laws, calling for him to serve six months in jail.
“In this case, the defendant’s repeated unlawful entries into the United States illustrates the defendant’s determination and persistence in disregarding and circumventing immigration laws,” they wrote. “Given this recidivist conduct, the defendant needs to be specifically deterred from reentering the United States a fourth time.”
But Balcarcel’s lawyers argued that he should be given a sentence of four months and be released immediately, since he’s already spent four months in jail awaiting sentencing.
They added that Balcarcel had come to the United States for good reason: he was the target of organized criminals in his home country of Guatemala, who in 2006 beat him so badly that he was hospitalized for over a month.
“The gang violence which caused him to flee has also caused a loss of contact with his parents and siblings, as the source of that violence was the gang’s desire to extort money from Mr. Balcarcel’s parents,” his lawyers wrote.
They added that Balcarcel had been employed continuously as an electrician by two Virginia-based contractors since he arrived in the state.