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Chesterfield Police Chief says Virginia pastor's prostitution sting record should not be expunged

Rock Church - Virginia Beach
Posted at 4:21 PM, Jan 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 11:07:52-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. - Chesterfield County Police Chief Col. Jeffrey S. Katz made a public statement on Facebook about the Virginia Beach pastor who was arrested in a 2021 Chesterfield County prostitution sting.

John Blanchard, the pastor of Rock Church in Virginia Beach, was one of 17 people arrested in the sting.

Blanchard's charges were withdrawn last fall. The case was ruled as nolle prosequi, meaning there is insufficient evidence in a case to prove the defendant guilty, meaning the charges could be brought back.

Chief Katz took to Facebook with a statement claiming that Blanchard's charges were not withdrawn due to a lack of evidence.

The full statement reads as follows:

"AS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE - I have found it necessary to make a few public statements regarding the arrest of Pastor John Blanchard. These statements have consistently reinforced my fervent support for the quality of the case and the investigative efforts of my staff. That has not changed.

Pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in November 2022, I exercised my discretion under the law to publicly release the details of this investigation because I believe there is a compelling public interest in maintaining as much transparency as possible with this case.

I have recently learned that Mr. Blanchard’s defense counsel made a motion to seal all police or court records, transcripts, and investigative records associated with this case. 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.

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.

The decision to nolle prosse this case has made such a deliberation impossible…but 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. 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. We did our duty.

In the meantime, I will not allow this incident to derail the important work we must accomplish on behalf of our community with the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. 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. The children in our community deserve nothing less than our full measure of protection. They have that from CCPD."

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