CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Former Virginia State Delegate Tim Anderson is speaking out after a reported conflict of interest was raised in Chesterfield General District Court Thursday with the county’s top prosecutor.
In a social media post, Anderson said that Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport had “declared a permanent ethical conflict and that no prosecutor in Chesterfield can be involved in any case I have because of my public criticism of her in the John Blanchard case.”
8News reached out to Davenport’s office last week and again this week for comment on Thursday’s proceedings, but has not received a response.
Although Thursday’s court appearance was not related to the solicitation of prostitution case against Virginia Beach Pastor John Blanchard, Anderson said that Blanchard’s case was the source of the conflict that was mentioned. It was reportedly raised because Anderson, an attorney, was working as defense counsel for a suspect appearing in Chesterfield General District Court when a representative from Davenport’s office shared the concern about a conflict of interest before presiding Judge Keith Hurley.
Anderson told 8News on Monday that he was handling two cases out of Chesterfield County last week.
“The Commonwealth’s Attorney refused to handle either and said they needed special prosecutors for both cases,” he said. “Because I have publicly criticized Stacey Davenport in the performance of her office involving the John Blanchard case, that I’m penalized now, that I can’t work with any prosecutor in her office forever, that a permanent conflict exists.”
Although Davenport was not the prosecutor in the courtroom for Anderson’s cases on Thursday, he said that the prosecutor from her office was speaking on her behalf.
The conflict surrounding Pastor Blanchard’s case stems from his Oct. 2021 arrest in Chesterfield County. Police were conducting an undercover operation, posing as an underage prostitute and communicating with potential offenders regarding sex services.
Blanchard was arrested with more than a dozen other men, the majority of whom faced prosecution for the solicitation of prostitution. However, in Oct. 2022, Blanchard’s charges were dropped, with prosecutors citing a lack of evidence.
Anderson then submitted a legal information request to acquire and make public the evidence that the Chesterfield County Police Department (CCPD) had gathered on Blanchard, which included text messages showing his exchanges with detectives posing as a teenage prostitute, and Blanchard asking for a “qv,” or quick visit for sex. Chief of Police Jeff Katz has also spoken publicly about the investigative work of his officers.
In Jan. 2023, Davenport announced publicly that she was calling for the involvement of a special prosecutor in Blanchard’s case to see whether it should be reopened after new evidence was reportedly introduced. She also cited Katz and Anderson’s criticism of her office’s handling of Blanchard’s case.
“We were in the General District Court [on Thursday], and the lower court judge doesn’t have any say of whether special prosecutor is granted or not,” Anderson said Monday. “What Davenport’s office will have to do is in every case that I’m involved in — and I have many — they’re going to have to file a motion with the Circuit Court, and I suspect those motions will probably go to Chief Judge [David] Johnson, and he’s going to have to decide whether there is an ethical conflict that prohibits her office from working with my my cases.”
Judge Johnson was the same Chesterfield Circuit Court judge who, in February of this year, released an opinion on Davenport’s request for a special prosecutor — and criticized the public statements made by both her and Chief Katz on Blanchard’s case.
“I haven’t heard an official statement from the Commonwealth’s Attorney that that is her position,” 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone said. “If it is her position, then the next thing she’s going to have to do is file something with the court saying that she wants the special prosecutor appointed. The judge then will have to weigh in on whether or not the judge feels that’s an appropriate thing to do.”
In response to Thursday’s proceedings, Anderson shared a post on social media that he was hoping to work with more defendants in Chesterfield County.
“The Commonwealth’s Attorney is an elected official. They are, absolutely, subject to the same political complaints and scrutiny that I, as the state delegate and now as a state Senate candidate, have to go through,” Anderson said. “But putting that aside, her office is the administrator of justice. It is their job to administer justice fairly equally amongst all defendants.”
The former Virginia Beach delegate said that he is already handling dozens of cases out of Chesterfield County.
“I’m trying to actively recruit more cases in Chesterfield now. If I can get to 100 or 200 cases, it would make it impossible for her to deploy this tactic,” Anderson said. “There’s not enough special prosecutors in the Commonwealth that could constantly be coming to Chesterfield because of this.”
Anderson said that the prosecutor in court Thursday did not explicitly list Blanchard’s case as a reason for the conflict of interest, but instead referenced Anderson’s criticism of Davenport and a previous instance of saying that she had lied.
“That came from when we actually got the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] information that showed that it wasn’t a lack of evidence, but it was a deal that they made with Mr. Blanchard,” Anderson said.
As 8News reported in February, previously unreleased emails obtained through a legal information request revealed that Blanchard’s attorney at the Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office reached some sort of a deal to have Blanchard attend psychosexual therapy and evaluation, after which the charges against him were nolle prossed, or dropped.
“The first go-to when appointing a special prosecutor is to go to a neighboring jurisdiction and get one of their either the elected Commonwealth’s Attorney or an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney to travel to the jurisdiction that has the conflict,” Stone said. “There’s not a direct drain on taxpayer funding because that Commonwealth’s Attorney who’s brought in is already being paid by their county. But it’s still fair to question the fact that that prosecutor is supposed to be doing things in their county, not in Chesterfield.”
Stone said, in certain instances, though, a judge could appoint a private lawyer to be the prosecutor on a specific case, which would require payment to be pulled from taxpayer funding.
Another hearing in Blanchard’s case is scheduled for June, with a special prosecutor out of Brunswick County reviewing the evidence against the Virginia Beach pastor to determine whether the case against him should be reopened.