A Virginia police chief is blasting a prosecutor for dropping and agreeing to expunge charges against a megachurch pastor caught last year in a prostitution sting, calling the actions “bewildering.”
Chesterfield County Police Chief Jeffrey S. Katz issued a lengthy statement Tuesday, challenging Commonwealth Attorney Stacey Davenport’s handling of prostitution charges against John D. Blanchard, pastor of Rock Church International in Virginia Beach.
“When someone: 1. Rents a car, 2. Texts a phone number posted on a known sex worker website, 3. Solicits a ‘qv’ (‘John’ lingo for a ‘quick visit’), 4. Makes multiple inquiries if the person he’s texting is ‘affiliated with law enforcement,’ 5. Drives two and a half hours to a hotel and knocks on the hotel room door – as directed by our undercover ‘17-year-old,’ I believe a jury of Chesterfield County residents deserves to weigh in on the matter of criminal culpability,” Katz wrote in his statement.
Blanchard was arrested in October 2021 durante una operación encubierta en la que un oficial se hizo pasar por una adolescente que ofrecía sexo en un motel. Las autoridades alegaron que Blanchard y otros 16 hombres habían estado “solicitando sexo a menores”.
Davenport’s office dropped Blanchard’s charges a year after the prostitution sting, citing a “lack of evidence.”
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Davenport’s office also has not objected to Blanchard’s request to have his records expunged.
Virginia law permits someone who was charged, but not convicted, to ask to have records of the arrest and charges sealed from public view.
Last month, Blanchard’s attorney filed a motion for expungement. Chesterfield County Circuit Court records show Davenport’s office did not object to the motion.
Katz rejected the prosecutor’s claim of insufficient evidence and said Davenport’s office had failed to tell police what was lacking in the police investigation.
“As I have shared with our Commonwealth’s Attorney, I believe a public articulation of her rationale is warranted,” Katz stated.“Absent a reasonable explanation, any discontent associated with the handling of this case should be directed to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. We did our duty.”
El Informe Roys (TRR) reached out to Davenport’s office for comment regarding Police Chief Katz’s criticism, but no one responded.
TRR also reached out to Rock Church for comment, but the church did not immediately respond.
Blanchard previously has denied accusations against him, saying they were part of “smear campaigns against me and this church,” TRR previamente reportado. Blanchard did not specify at that time what exactly he was denying.
A former church employee has also dicho TRR that Blanchard sexually assaulted her. Blanchard reportedly sued the woman after she went to police, but the court dismissed the case.
State official says prosecutor threw police ‘under the bus’
State delegate Tim Anderson, an attorney, has also called Davenport’s actions into question over the last few months. He also has filed a motion to intervene in Blanchard’s expungement case.
A hearing on Anderson’s motion is set for March 21.
Anderson wrote in a Facebook post that he got involved in the expungement case in part because Davenport’s office “has failed to provide any reasonable explanation” for deciding “out of the blue” to drop the charges against Blanchard.
He added he believes Blanchard was treated differently from other defendants in the sting.
Anderson called the expungement case “a race to seal and erase the records that I have never seen happen in 24 years of practicing law. . . .” He also accused Davenport of throwing “the police under the bus for her own political reasons.”
“Now (Blanchard) is back in my community, in the pulpit of a mega church, claiming ‘innocence,’” Anderson added.
Former assistant prosecutors weigh in
A former child sex crimes prosecutor in Chesterfield County,who is challenging Davenport for the county commonwealth attorney’s position, echoed Katz’s and Anderson’s concerns in a statement of her own Wednesday.
“From what has been publicized, there is no reason this case could not have gone forward,” Erin Barr wrote in her statement. She called Davenport’s “lack of evidence” explanation a “flimsy excuse.”
Barr also praised the police department’s work and accused Davenport’s office of making decisions about sexual assault and human trafficking cases “for appearances or political gain, not in a trauma-informed, evidence-based way.”
Another former assistant prosecutor in Davenport’s office, Kelly Cotting, went public with similar concerns in November.
“While I think Ms. Davenport’s intentions have always been good, she is so scared of public backlash that she won’t let her prosecutors make hard decisions,” Cotting wrote. “There is no reason these cases should be slipping through the cracks EXCEPT that Ms. Davenport will not allow people to act quickly and decisively.” On Facebook, Cotting called on the public to support Barr’s candidacy over Davenport this year.
Update 1-13-2023: After this article was published, TRR received the following statement (PDF below) in response to our inquiries to Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport’s office.Blanchard-press-release-Jan-2023
5 pensamientos sobre “Police Chief Blasts Prosecutor for Dropping Sex Crime Charges Against Megachurch Pastor”
Or is she a corrupt evangelical supporting one of her own tribe….
That is my take.
I’ve asked a couple times about his explanation for why he was where he was. Has he ever said?
How many other would be “Johns” were given a break like this? Did someone believe that it was entrapment and therefore was susceptible to an entrapment defense?
It does seem fishy. If the prosecutor goes to an evangelical church . . . hoo-hah.
I had a quick look around her campaign website and if she is an evangelical, she’s not exactly blasting it from the rooftops, like so many elected officials still do. But that could be a red herring anyway, since I’m sure this type of “looking the other way” happens all the time when it comes to rich and powerful people.
It’s even possible that Blanchard told Davenport that prosecuting him would be more trouble than its worth once he brought his lawyers and PR machine to bear on the case. It’s much easier to throw the book at people who can’t afford expensive lawyers, after all. Letting one perp go when you already have a dozen others wouldn’t seem like a big deal when you’re handling thousands of cases a year already.
Justice is supposed to be blind in America, but it never has been. Money talks, and Davenport knows the value of money since her justification for restoring the incredibly regressive cash bail system in her county recently was “we need the money.”
What is wrong with people? How can anyone with a soul and half a brain continue to attend this creep’s church/business? More than likely this pastor/wolf runs the church with no accountability from a single person. If he does have an elder board, you can be sure they are all “yes” men. Are there any real men left in these corrupt, institutional, businesses that pretend to be churches? Maybe some were there but Mr. CEO big-time preacher man ran them off.
Nice club ring, buddy! ‘Solicitation of sex with minors’ is such a cute way of saying child rape/torture. These sordid situations tend to require a little reverse engineering…so who’s investigating the prosecutor?
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