VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — 13News Now has obtained new documents that show what happened before Chesterfield County Police arrested the pastor of Virginia Beach's Rock Church for trying to solicit a minor.
John Blanchard was arrested in October of 2021, but prosecutors recently set those charges aside.
The documents include a detailed description of what detectives wrote regarding their interview with Blanchard on the night of his arrest on October 29, 2021. They also include the messages between Blanchard and the undercover detectives.
In the documents, investigators say they posed as a 17-year-old girl online for prostitution and received a message from Blanchard.
In the messages with the undercover detectives, Blanchard agreed to meet at a place by the Chesterfield Mall, but first, he asked the person: "Are you affiliated with law enforcement in any way?"
The undercover detective posed as the teenager wrote in the message saying "she" was 17 years old and asked if that would be a problem. The incoming message from Blanchard did not answer that question but instead asked for more details about the meet-up location.
When Blanchard arrived at the location, that's when detectives say they arrested him for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
That same night, detectives say they found cash of up to $160 and a cell phone in Blanchard's possession. Detectives say this money was enough to cover the amount they "requested" in the chat for the meet-up.
When investigators say they called the number associated with the text messages, the cell phone Blanchard had that night rang. They documented it for records.
Police officers then brought him in for questioning.
During the interview, investigators say they asked Blanchard multiple times what made him chat with the person online, but Blanchard kept saying he didn't know how he came upon the website where he chatted online. At another point in the interview, detectives say Blanchard blamed his lack of memory of the site on "brain problems."
The transcription goes on to say Blanchard said he never solicited anyone for sex and never confirmed in the messages he wanted any sexual contact. The records show he said, "I can't have charges, I didn't do anything wrong. I was just going to talk."
In addition, the documents show he told police officers he "was planning on talking and that's why, you know, the texts are the way they are, because that's what I was trying to say."
In the last hearing at Chesterfield County Juvenile Court, prosecutors set the prostitution charges against Blanchard aside, but they can bring those charges back in the future.
Delegate and attorney, Tim Anderson, posted the documents about Blanchard's arrest on Facebook, which he received through a FOIA request, saying, "Rock Church Leadership still maintains Pastor Blanchard is innocent. To all Rock Church leadership who know about this and are complicit: Your silence is an indictment of your hypocrisy."
Anderson created another post, questioning Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney, Stacey Davenport, and called for transparency.
In response to our inquiries, the communications team for the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office released this statement to 13News Now:
”The conclusion of a case by order of nolle prosequi does not have the same legal effect as a not guilty finding. I am unable to comment on the appropriateness of public statements made by other entities regarding this, or any other, case in which my office is involved.
The cases from the Chesterfield Police Department’s October 2021 sting operation, which include this particular case, involved a Chesterfield detective posing as a 17-year-old online. The interaction between the detective and the defendant in each case was different. As a result, the evidence available for use in the prosecution of each case was different, and the outcome of each case was different. Some of the cases had sufficient evidence to support felony convictions, and some did not.
As ministers of justice, prosecutors are required to individually evaluate the strength of the evidence provided by the police in each case. The legal standard required for an officer to obtain a warrant for arrest is merely probable cause. A prosecutor must have evidence that proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to support a conviction in a court of law and ethically cannot proceed with charges in a case where the evidence does not meet that standard.
Although this operation did not involve any actual child victims, we take all such cases very seriously and are always motivated by our mandate to protect the safety of our community.”
13News Now also reached out to Rock Church leaders in Virginia Beach multiple times for a comment, but we have not heard back.