CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Chesterfield County judge has set a new deadline for prosecutors in the solicitation of prostitution case against Virginia Beach Pastor John Blanchard.
The Rock Church International pastor was arrested in Oct. 2021 during an undercover sex sting by the Chesterfield County Police Department. Sixteen other men were also arrested on similar charges, after detectives posed as underage prostitutes in online advertisements, and communicated with suspects who responded, setting a place to meet for sexual services.
While the majority of the 16 other cases were prosecuted, in Oct. 2022, the Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office made the decision to nolle pros, or drop, the charges against Pastor Blanchard, citing a “lack of evidence.” Shortly after that decision, however, text messages and other records of Blanchard’s arrest were released, having been obtained by a legal information request filed by Virginia Beach Del. Tim Anderson, an attorney himself.
“I’ve released the file, and I’ve been very careful all along never to say Blanchard’s guilty or not guilty of anything,” Anderson told 8News on Monday. “All I’ve ever said is he’s been treated differently, and I don’t understand why.”
In January, Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport said new information had come to light that could reopen the case against Blanchard, but did not take questions or provide insight on what that evidence was. The case has since been handed over to Brunswick County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney William R. Blaine, Jr., after Davenport requested that a special prosecutor be appointed.
Meanwhile, T. Noel Brooks, Blanchard’s attorney, filed a motion to expunge the records related to the pastor’s solicitation of prostitution charge in Chesterfield County. Shortly thereafter, Del. Anderson filed a motion to intervene, hoping to pause that process. The Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office initially submitted court documents supporting the expungement, but reversed course in February.
During a hearing for the expungement proceedings on March 21, Anderson said that a judge set a June 7 deadline for Commonwealth’s Attorney Blaine to decide whether to press charges against Blanchard.
“The [Brunswick County] Commonwealth’s Attorney went up and asked for the court not to make a decision on the expungement, and asked for 90 days to give him the opportunity to investigate the case,” Anderson said Monday. “At that status hearing, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, presumably, will have either chosen to proceed and move forward with the criminal case, or he will not, and then the question of expungement will be determined at a future date.”
8News reached out to the Brunswick County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office Monday for comment but has not received a response.
“If this case were going to proceed forward, [Blaine] will have to take the case to a grand jury. he can’t initiate charges any other way, and their next meeting is in May, and I suspect that’s why he’s asking for the 90 days,” Anderson said. “Let the grand jury, citizens of Chesterfield, decide whether there’s probable cause that Blanchard committed a crime, and if they think so, then they’ll enter an indictment in the case to move forward in that way, and if they don’t, case goes away.”