CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) – The special prosecutor in a prostitution sting case against a Virginia Beach pastor concluded the initial charges were withdrawn because the pastor kept “up his half” of a deal with the Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, contradicting the county prosecutor’s claim that there was not enough evidence to take the case to trial.
Brunswick County Commonwealth’s Attorney William Blaine was appointed to review new evidence found in the case against John D. Blanchard, a pastor at the Rock Church in Virginia Beach who was arrested in the 2021 online sex sting in Chesterfield where authorities posed as minors.
Blanchard was charged with solicitation of prostitution from a minor 16 years or older and using a vehicle to promote prostitution, but the charges were withdrawn in October 2022.
Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to take the case to trial, a decision that drew backlash and raised questions about the case.
In a June 2 letter to two Chesterfield judges, which was obtained by 8News, Blaine wrote that he was not going to reinstate charges against Blanchard, concluding that the new evidence did not change the final analysis of the case and that the government already “got its bite at the apple.”
“Again without going into detail about what the new evidence is, the new evidence – in my respected opinion – does not affect the prosecution of what happened on that [offense] date in October of 2021,” Blaine wrote. “The evidence, if admissible, might be found to bolster the government’s case against Defendant.”
Attorneys retained by Blanchard and Davenport’s office “engaged in very lengthy ‘discussions’ via email,” that Blaine reviewed, according to the letter.
In February, 8News obtained emails through a public records request that showed Blanchard’s attorney had reached some sort of deal with the Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to attend psychosexual therapy and evaluation.
“At the time of the email plea discussions, the government already had a case against Defendant [Blanchard]. The CCPD [Chesterfield County Police Department] built a sound case,” Blaine wrote to the judges. “The government — well within the bounds of its discretion — essentially took the matter under advisement and allowed Defendant to submit to counseling (indeed to specialized counseling) from more than one counselor while the case was continued on the docket.”
Blaine did not find anything “unusual” about how the case was handled, writing that Davenport’s office was within its authority to reach a deal with Blanchard and that he honored conditions of an unwritten plea agreement, noting that the government “doesn’t get a do-over.”
“Presumably in exchange for Defendant keeping up his half of the agreement/bargain/deal, the government sought and received nolle prosequi on the charges,” Blaine wrote in his letter, adding that such arrangments are not uncommon in criminal cases in Brunswick County.
In the letter, Blaine wrote that since there was probable cause to arrest Blanchard and issue warrants against him, “it does not seem like a great quantum leap to conclude that probable cause still exists to reinstate the charges against Defendant.” He added that Chesterfield police “built a sound case.”
“In this case, the government got its bite at the apple,” Blaine wrote. “The Chesterfield OCA, an office elected by the people of Chesterfield, resolved the case in the district court how that office saw fit. As I mentioned earlier, although I am not tasked with reviewing that resolution, I saw nothing that raised my eyebrows in how this case was handled.”
Chesterfield’s police chief, Col. Jeffrey S. Katz, spoke out publicly against the decision to drop the charges, saying it was not “due to a lack of evidence or a substandard investigation.” On Thursday, Katz said the special prosecutor’s report confirmed that a proper investigation was conducted.
“The Brunswick Commonwealth’s Attorney validated what I’ve publicly said all along — the Chesterfield County Police Department conducted a competent and compelling investigation,” Katz said in a statement. “This was never about politics — it was about standing up for men and women doing high-quality work on behalf of others.”
Davenport’s office told 8News on Friday that she has no comment on the special prosecutor’s findings. Efforts to reach Blaine on Thursday were unsuccessful as his office told 8News he was in court.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include that the Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Stacey Davenport, did not have a comment on the matter, which came June 9 after the story was published June 8.