VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WRIC) — Text messages and a police incident report that were recently released publicly have revealed more details about the arrest of a Virginia Beach pastor, showing that he was sent a message informing him he was allegedly speaking with someone underage.
According to the incident report, members of Chesterfield Police’s Special Victims Unit were involved in an ongoing sting operation throughout 2021, in which detectives would create fake profiles on “well known prostitution websites” and chat with users who they said wanted to solicit minors.
During this operation, Special Victims detectives posted an ad on one such website for a 19-year-old woman located in the Richmond area, and also listed a contact number.
According to police, John Blanchard of Virginia Beach, who was 51 years old at the time, contacted the detectives asking if “she” — believing he was speaking to the woman from the ad — was available in Richmond. The detective replied saying she was near a mall in Chesterfield, and Blanchard said he would travel to her.
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. The detective also sent a messaging asking Blanchard if he was “ready for this young tight kitty.” He responded asking for her location.
The detectives gave Blanchard the location of a Chesterfield hotel and a room number, which were redacted from the report released by authorities. When Blanchard arrived to the indicated location, units on scene arrested him. Blanchard was charged with soliciting of prostitution of a minor and use of vehicle to promote prostitution. Both were felony charges.
During his interview with detectives, Blanchard said he was not soliciting and was only interested in spending time with someone. He also said that since he thought he was just visiting, he thought the texts he was getting were “odd.”
When detectives asked Blanchard about the quote for money the detective had given him, he said he was not going to pay anyone unless they were having a “financial crisis.” Later in the interview, he said he was only going to pay for the time, not sex.
Blanchard did not answer how he met the person he was chatting with, saying that he thought detectives would “twist” his words if he answered. He also said he was not aware the site he was using contained pornography.
He reportedly became upset when police brought up that the person he believed he was talking to told him she was a minor. He said he did not remember receiving a message about the person being underage and did not see the message in which the person indicted their age.
Blanchard repeated several times during the interview with police that he felt he did nothing wrong.
Delegate Tim Anderson, representing Norfolk and Virginia Beach, obtained the police incident report and text messages through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Some of the report was redacted, but Anderson, an attorney himself, presumed it contained information about the hotel where Blanchard was taken into custody, which could be used for similar investigations in the future.
“In my legal opinion, from what I have seen, there’s no excuse not to prosecute this case,” he told 8News on Friday. “If he’s found not guilty or if he’s acquitted, that’s one thing. But to use prosecutorial discretion and say nothing happened here, that’s, in my opinion, an abuse of discretion, especially when they went after 15 other people.”
Blanchard was one of 17 men arrested as part of the Special Victims Unit sting operation.
The charges against him were withdrawn in October of 2022, due to what the Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office noted was a lack of evidence. The incident report indicated that before the charges were withdrawn, Blanchard and his attorney were working toward a resolution in the case that started with Blanchard attending counseling for sex offenders.
“In police records, it says that Blanchard brought evidence of completion of sex offender therapy to one of the court hearings, and that the Commonwealth’s Attorney rejected it because it was done at another mega church, rather than an approved provider,” Anderson said. “Some kind of a deal was made, and we don’t know what it was, between the prosecutor and the defense attorney, to let this case go.”
Blanchard stepped down as a senior pastor at the Rock Church in Virginia Beach after news broke of his arrest in October 2021, although he was seen preaching there just two days after being arrested. As of November 2022, he is also still listed publicly on the church’s website as a senior pastor.
In October, Bishop Anne Gimenez, a founder of Rock Church, issued a statement on social media in support of Blanchard after his charges were dropped:
On Tuesday morning, October 11, prosecutors for the Chesterfield County Courthouse dropped all charges against Pastor John Blanchard. The prosecutor in a statement to the Court indicated that due to new information coming to light and lack of evidence, they will no longer be pursuing charges against Pastor Blanchard. This exoneration comes after nearly 11 months of delays and continuances. The defense attorney stated Tuesday that he was pleased with the outcome.
Pastor Blanchard has continually professed his complete innocence in this case. During this time, he stepped back from his pastoral duties at the Rock Church Int’l in Virginia Beach, Virginia, handing over the oversight of the congregation to Bishop Anne Gimenez and his wife, Pastor Robin Blanchard.
Following the proceedings on Tuesday, Bishop Anne Gimenez stated “We have always believed in John’s innocence. His humility and submission to those over him during this time has been a testimony to his character. He has spent the time in fasting and prayer and has invested much of his time in his family and education. We anticipate his resumption of church duties in the near future.”
However, Blanchard was not officially exonerated, as the statement claimed, because his case was never tried.
“Maybe he would or would not be found guilty in a court with reasonable doubt,” Anderson said. “But innocent, as in nothing happened, he was never there? No way.”
8News reached out to Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport for a comment, but has not received a response.
Chesterfield Police Chief Jeff Katz shared the following statement with 8News in response to an inquiry on this case:
I’m proud of our detectives and the quality of the case they presented. I stand by and support their work. They provided a quality investigation and included compelling evidence — as outlined in Del. Anderson’s post. The decision to prosecute — or not prosecute — a case rests with the County’s elected Commonwealth Attorney. The only person who can bring clarity to this decision is the person who made it. It would be irresponsible for anyone to speculate on such an important decision.
As far as the Chesterfield County Police Department is concerned, we remain committed to continuing operations that relentlessly target those who seek to exploit the youth in our community. By wise design, our authority stops once investigations conclude and suspects are arrested. After that, the rest of the criminal justice system carries cases to their conclusion.
We’ll own our contribution in this case; we locked up a guy we believe violated the law in spectacular fashion. We believe we protected our community…and we’re going to keep doing it, too!!!
We appreciate the thoughts and concerns of those in our community who are equally passionate and committed to protecting our youth.