From Sanctuary to Stooge

Mayor Levar Stoney

by Jon Baliles

Most of us have tried hard to block out Mayor Stoney’s July 4th fiasco, when his then-police chief tried hard to impress the boss and concocted a fake foiled mass shooting plot at Dogwood Dell on July 4, 2022. The Mayor denied he ever knew about it. The chief said he knew about it beforehand but claims to have never told the mayor or any of the officers working the event in a public park that annually draws thousands of people. Within days the story fell apart and it was revealed in court a few weeks later that there was no — as in zero — evidence that there ever was a planned mass shooting.

You might not also recall back in 2017 when the newly installed Mayor Stoney unofficially declared Richmond a sanctuary city and would protect people that might be in this country illegally from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He said, according to CBS6, “We need to protect our children and our families so they can learn and prosper. That means protecting all of our residents… and protecting them regardless of whether they have legal status in our country.”

The reason that these things are related is that the man falsely accused of plotting a mass shooting is wishing he had never come to Richmond or heard of Levar Stoney. If Stoney actually meant what he said that day in 2017 about protecting immigrants, then Julio Alvarado Dubon never would have been falsely accused of a mass shooting or spent the last 17 months in jail, and is now facing deportation back to Guatemala.

Two days after a fatal July 4th shooting in Chicago, the Mayor needed a win and his police chief devised what we now know as the July 4th fiasco that was sold as fact even though everyone knew it was false. Stoney wanted to look big and get on cable news shows (which he did) and for a few days Richmond got great press. But within a few more days, the story began to unravel and people realized the story had more holes than Swiss cheese and Stoney left Chief Smith on an island to take the fall. Meanwhile, the two men falsely accused of plotting to shoot up thousands of fireworks lovers at Dogwood Dell in Byrd Park were put in jail as patsies (they also faced gun charges).

As Jake Burns at CBS6 reported this week in a story that didn’t get a whole lot of notice, Dubon was sentenced to 17 months in prison (which is essentially time served since he has been there since July 2022) for weapons possession and for being in the United States illegally and will probably be released to federal immigration officials and likely face a deportation review. So much for Stoney’s sanctuary city.

Burns reports (with my emphasis):

Dubon took responsibility for overstaying his work visa and buying two weapons that were found in his Richmond home. But federal judge Hannah Lauch made a point to get it on the record that Dubon’s alleged connection to an unfounded mass shooting threat against the 2022 Dogwood Dell fireworks show was “overplayed” and “took on a life of its own.”

Burns also reports:

Dubon’s attorney Jose Aponte said the consequences of being falsely named as the mastermind of a terrorist plot have outweighed any punishment the court could lay down.

Dubon came to the U.S. to provide for his family after extortion threats in Guatemala and similar threats have resurfaced since he was named as a terror suspect, his lawyer said.

“The impact of the premature and unfounded claims of terrorism is equally punitive to whatever sentence Mr. Alvarado receives. False publicity in his home country resulted in people threatening his family,” Aponte wrote in court documents. “While housed at the Richmond City Jail, and based on information put forth by the media about ‘his terrorist plans,’ Mr. Alvarado was physically assaulted by inmates and was extorted for money to avoid harm to his family.

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You can watch Stoney’s nauseating interview on Good Morning America here, which took place just after the bogus mass shooting story, but before the story began to unravel. You can also see his interview with WRIC later in 2022, and when asked about the fiasco and the fact that the prosecutors told a judge they had zero evidence of a mass shooting plot, Stoney replied: “I’m not going to get into the evidence.”

That might be because there was no evidence. None. Zero. Nada.

And sadly, it was far too easy for Stoney to ignore a man that in 2017 he said he would protect but became immediately expendable as a useful stooge for a fake story just to get favorable news coverage and interviews in 2022. That’s what Richmond Real looks like in Stoney’s own self-declared “Capital of Compassion.”

Jon Baliles is a former Richmond city councilman. Republished with permission from RVA 5×5.