Special prosecutor appointed in case against Virginia Beach pastor

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Brunswick County, William Blaine Jr., will review the evidence in the John Blanchard case.
The special prosecutor will review the case and decide whether or not to refile charges in case against Virginia Beach pastor John Blanchard.
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 6:49 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 7:26 PM EST
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - A special prosecutor has been named in the case against Virginia Beach pastor John Blanchard, who had his charges set aside by prosecutors one year after his arrest back in 2021 during an undercover child sex crimes sting in Chesterfield.

The court documents obtained by NBC12 show that a judge appointed William Blaine Jr. as the special prosecutor to review the case.

In Oct. 2021, Blanchard was one of 17 people arrested during the child sex crimes sting in Chesterfield. Blanchard was charged with felony solicitation of a minor.

One year after Blanchard’s arrest, his charges were set aside by prosecutors who cited a lack of evidence.

In a Facebook statement, Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz blasted the decision and said this was not “due to a lack of evidence.” State Delegate Tim Anderson has also made public statements about his disagreement with handling the case.

During a brief press conference in January, Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport announced her request for a special prosecutor in light of new evidence received by her office.

Davenport didn’t elaborate on the specifics of the new evidence, but records State Delegate Tim Anderson’s office received through the Freedom of Information Act shed light on what this could be.

One of those records is an email sent to Davenport by Chief Katz. In the email, Katz tells Davenport the CCPD Special Victims Detectives team received a tip, which “led to the execution of a search warrant and the seizing of a video.”

Katz did not elaborate further on the video in the email but told Davenport it “incontrovertibly validates our assertions that Blanchard knowingly sought to engage in sex with an underage girl in a Chesterfield County hotel room on the day of his arrest.”

The records Anderson shared also had a mix of email exchanges between prosecutors and members of the police department, who discussed the handling of the Blanchard case.

In one of the emails sent to a member of the Chesterfield Police Department on Jan. 20, someone says that the attorney working the Blanchard case was advised that “Blanchard had a “built-in defense” because he did not acknowledge the age and that he claimed he was driving and didn’t see the text where the UC says she’s 17.”

In this same email, the person advised the “better outcome was that Blanchard receive[s] the sex offender counseling, which contained components of a psychosexual evaluation.”

Now, a special prosecutor will weigh the case to determine whether or not to refile charges.

NBC12 Legal Analyst Steve Benjamin said there is no timeline to when we could expect a final decision from the special prosecutor on whether or not charges will be refiled. Benjamin said this would come after a thorough review of evidence.

“Any investigation would consider everything that had been developed previously, along with any new or newly available evidence,” he said. “The investigation will be as thorough as it could be, and that’s what I think we would expect here.”

In a copy of the special prosecutor motion obtained by NBC12 on Thursday, Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport wrote that she and her assistants “have disqualified themselves,” citing that the “politicization of this case creates an appearance of a conflict of interest for this office.”

In the judge’s ruling, which came with the copy of the special prosecutor order, the judge said: “that if both the Commonwealth’s Attorney and Chief of Police had refrained from making any public comments, then when the Chief of Police produced new evidence to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, she would have, by her own admission, been able to make a decision.”

Ultimately, the court-appointed Blaine Jr. is a different choice than the special prosecutor Davenport ordered in her original request.

“If the Commonwealth’s Attorney is so situated that she cannot make a prosecutorial decision, she most assuredly cannot decide who will make that decision,” wrote the judge in his ruling.

Earlier this week, Chesterfield Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney LaToya Croxton filed a motion to stop the expungement of Blanchard’s records. In response, Blanchard’s attorney filed an objection, citing they missed the deadline.