CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — In light of “new information” received by the Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office within the past 48 hours concerning the criminal case against Virginia Beach pastor, John Blanchard, the Commonwealth’s Attorney is requesting a special prosecutor review the case to decide whether it should be prosecuted.
Following months of 8News’ investigative reports on the case — including requests for comment and interviews, which have gone largely unanswered — the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office sent out a notice regarding “an important announcement” Wednesday evening.
“Due to the repeated public comments and unfounded political attacks levied upon my office by both Chesterfield County Police Chief Jeffery Katz and Delegate Tim Anderson, I cannot ethically make any decisions on whether or not this new information should impact future prosecutorial decisions in this matter,” Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport said during the news conference Thursday morning.
Blanchard was originally charged as part of an undercover operation that led to the arrest of 17 men accused of soliciting sex from minors. He was one of three defendants who had their charges nolle prossed — or dropped — while 13 others were found guilty of at least one charge. One case is still playing out in court.
A report from the Chesterfield County Police Department (CCPD) later noted that Davenport cited a “lack of evidence” as the primary reason for the decision. Shortly after, Col. Jeffrey Katz, Chesterfield County’s Chief of Police, came forward with his own statement — claiming the decision to nolle prosse the case was “not due to a lack of evidence or a substandard investigation.”
After obtaining records documenting Blanchard’s interaction with an undercover detective posing as a 17-year-old girl on a “well-known prostitution website,” Del. Tim Anderson (R-Norfolk), an attorney himself, filed a motion to stop the expungement of the Chesterfield Police records on Blanchard, an action with which the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office had agreed to proceed on Dec. 12, 2022, after the charges had been set aside.
“He was treated differently,” Anderson stated. “That’s a fact, and that’s not something that we would want as lawyers or as public officials. We would not want to see somebody being treated differently or better than others in a criminal prosecution case.”
Citing the possible reopening of the Blanchard case, Davenport ended the scheduled news conference less than two minutes after it began, saying she could not make further any comments.
“Because this may once again become a future pending criminal case, I cannot make any further comments on the facts or the circumstances surrounding anything related to this matter,” Davenport stated.
Katz responded to the decision to assign a special prosecutor to the case in a statement on Facebook just an hour and a half after the press conference, writing, “Good. I have privately – and then publicly – requested reasonable answers to reasonable questions; questions many rightfully are asking…questions that now actually stand a chance of getting answered. If Ms. Davenport chooses to frame those questions as a political attack, so be it. The wheels of justice are back in motion.”
Although Katz was not personally in attendance at the news conference, during which Davenport did not take questions, several members of Chesterfield County’s police force were there.
Anderson spoke with 8News following the announcement.
“I think that you will find that a special prosecutor is going to prosecute John Blanchard. Again, I don’t know that he’s going to be found guilty, but there’s certainly enough evidence to move this case forward and bring it a jury,” he said. “She suspected that future criminal charges are going to be brought, and that needs to happen. That’s what all these other guys went through, who got caught up in this, and there just needs to be an end of this story at the hands of a judge, not the hands of an elected commonwealth’s attorney.”