CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Col. Jeffrey Katz, Chesterfield’s Chief of Police, has come forward with public comments regarding the arrest of Virginia Beach Pastor John Blanchard.
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 on 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 Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport cited a “lack of evidence.”
Throughout 8News’ reporting, there have been several attempts to contact Davenport to discuss Blanchard’s charges being dropped. On Wednesday, Jan. 4, 8News went to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in person, but was told to send an email as no one was available. Requests for comment have gone unanswered, with the exception of a statement in November.
“The cases from the Chesterfield Police Department’s October 2021 sting operation, which include this particular case, involved a Chesterfield detective posing as a 17-year-old online. The interaction between the detective and the defendant in each case was different,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office November statement read. “As a result, the evidence available for use in the prosecution of each case was different, and the outcome of each case was different. Some of the cases had sufficient evidence to support felony convictions, and some did not.”
Katz said he felt compelled to make a statement “as a matter of principle” in support of the police work done by his officers. Katz claimed that 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 Dec. 12, 2022, T. Noel Brooks, Blanchard’s legal representative, filed a motion to expunge the records of his 2021 arrest in Chesterfield County. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office agreed, noting that there was “no objection to the Petition for Expungement.”
“Our Commonwealth’s Attorney has decided to consent to render these records unavailable to the public, which — upon approval by a judge — would make sharing of these transcripts, the report, or any other documents, previously released under FOIA a crime. From my vantage point, this is bewildering,” Katz said in his statement Tuesday. “I believe a jury of Chesterfield County residents deserves to weigh in on the matter of criminal culpability.”
Del. Tim Anderson (R-83), an attorney himself, obtained documents on Blanchard’s arrest through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in November. 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 asking whether that was okay with Blanchard. He eventually asked for her location at which to meet.
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.
“I’m not trying to say Pastor Blanchard’s guilty of anything,” Del. Anderson told 8News last week. “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.”
On Wednesday, Del. Anderson filed his own motion — a motion for leave to intervene and effectively stop the expungement of the Chesterfield Police records on Blanchard.
“While I disagree on the handling of this case — and hope I’ve made that point abundantly clear — we will move forward, unapologetic in our commitment to protect the vulnerable in our community,” Katz said. “The children in our community deserve nothing less than our full measure of protection. They have that from CCPD.”