VIRGINIA BEACH (VA)
Christian Post [Washington DC]
January 11, 2023
By Leonardo Blair, Senior Features Reporter
Insisting the case against Rock Church International Pastor John Blanchard remains strong enough to convict him of prostitution charges, Chesterfield County Police Chief, Col. Jeffrey S. Katz of Virginia, publicly disagreed with the decision of Commonwealth Attorney Stacey Davenport to drop the charges against the pastor, arguing that the case should have gone to trial.
Blanchard was among 17 men accused of solicitation of prostitution after an online sting operation by police on Oct. 29, 2021. The married father of two was charged with solicitation of prostitution of a minor and use of a vehicle to promote prostitution which are both felonies. He was arrested at a hotel where he was supposed to meet a detective posing as a 17-year-old girl.
After almost a year of legal maneuvering, the charges against Blanchard were withdrawn or nolle prossed ahead of a criminal trial in October. A case that is nolle prossed means prosecutors could potentially bring those charges again.
A report from the Chesterfield County Police Department said Davenport cited a “lack of evidence” in not moving forward with the case against Blanchard, WRIC reported.
In a statement posted on Facebook Tuesday, Katz revealed that he felt compelled to make a public statement about the case because Blanchard’s attorney filed a motion to “seal all police or court records, transcripts, and investigative records associated with this case” and “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.”
Katz called the move “bewildering” particularly because his investigators have presented cases with less compelling evidence that led to a conviction.
“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,” he wrote.
Davenport’s decision to abandon the case, however, has deprived the public of the chance to weigh the case in court. He also insisted that Davenport’s decision had nothing to do with a lack of evidence.
“I want to be clear; this is 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. Any assertion to the contrary needs to be articulated by the Commonwealth Attorney,” Katz said.
“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. As I have shared with our Commonwealth’s Attorney, I believe a public articulation of her rationale is warranted. Absent a reasonable explanation, any discontent associated with the handling of this case should be directed to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office,” he added. “We did our duty.”
In an Oct. 11 statement on Facebook, Rock Church officials announced that Blanchard was cleared of all charges by prosecutors from the Chesterfield County Courthouse.
“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,” Bishop Anne Gimenez, who is currently leading the church along with Blanchard’s wife, Robin, said. “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.”
That plan, however, was interrupted when details of Blanchard’s arrest were shared publicly in documents online by attorney Tim Anderson. The documents show Blanchard negotiating for a “quick visit” in a chat he initiated by responding to an advertisement presented as a 19-year-old girl on a website that “obtained pornographic images.”
“Under the guidance of our legal counsel, we cannot make a statement or comment concerning the accusations against Rev. John Blanchard at this time. We are all committed to walking in integrity and truth at Rock Church International and will continue to take steps to do so,” the church said. “Pastor Blanchard has voluntarily stepped back as lead pastor and from all his ministerial duties until this present situation is totally resolved.”
The Christian Post reported in November that Blanchard was still preaching at Christian conferences.
“There’s nothing the devil can do to steal what God has ordained for your life,” Blanchard told the audience at the Global Fellowship Church in Richardson, Texas. “I want you to know, you are a child of destiny.”