CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport announced that due to new information her office received in the past 48 hours, she will be appointing a special prosecutor regarding the criminal case of Virginia Beach pastor John Blanchard.
Davenport made the announcement at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Chesterfield County Courthouse steps. In total, she spoke for less than two minutes.
Blanchard was originally charged as part of an undercover operation that led to the arrest of 17 men accused of soliciting sex from minors. Three defendants had their charges nolle prossed — or dropped — while 13 others were found guilty of at least one charge.
Blanchard was one of the three to have his charges nolle prossed by the Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. A report from the Chesterfield Police Department later noted that Davenport cited a “lack of evidence” as the primary reason for the decision.
On Dec. 12, 2022, Blanchard’s legal representative, filed a motion to expunge the records of his arrest in Chesterfield County. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office agreed, noting that there was “no objection to the Petition for Expungement.”
Davenport’s Thursday announcement was scheduled a little over a week after Col. Jeffrey Katz, Chesterfield’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.”
“We know what we are doing, we do it very well, and we will continue to proceed with such investigations in the future,” Katz said. “Any assertion to the contrary needs to be articulated by the Commonwealth Attorney. Despite numerous convictions on cases with similar — and in some cases less compelling evidence — we have not been given any guidance as to where this investigation fell short of prosecutorial expectations. Moreover, the public has not been provided an explanation.”
On Friday, Jan. 13, in response to Katz’s statement, Davenport released her first public response since a statement she made in November.
“The decision was based solely upon the law, the facts of the case, and the professional experience and ethical duties of the prosecutors,” Davenport said in her response to Katz. “Any assertion to the contrary is offensive to every prosecutor in this office and is patently false.”
Del. Tim Anderson (R-Norfolk), an attorney himself, obtained documents on Blanchard’s arrest through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in November 2022. The records documented Blanchard’s communication with an undercover detective posing as a teen girl through a “well-known prostitution website.”
Blanchard indicated he was looking for a “qv,” which, according to the police report, is a phrase in the sex trade meaning “quick visit.” The detective asked for $80 for this visit, which later changed to $70. During the conversation, the detective sent a message saying “she” was actually 17 years old and asked whether that was okay with Blanchard. He responded by asking for her location.
When Blanchard arrived at the indicated hotel room, he was arrested by police. Blanchard was charged with soliciting the prostitution of a minor and using a vehicle to promote prostitution. Both were felony charges.
On Jan. 4, Anderson filed his own motion — a motion for leave to intervene and effectively stop the expungement of the Chesterfield Police records on Blanchard.
“I’m not trying to say Pastor Blanchard’s guilty of anything,” Anderson told 8News earlier this month. “But he was treated differently. 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.”