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'A lie is still a lie': Virginia Beach pastor returns to pulpit after charges dropped for attempted solicitation of minor

"These statements are demonstrably false. You dress up a lie. You can twist it. You can misrepresent it. But I'm sorry, a lie is still a lie."

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — John Blanchard, a pastor at Rock Church International in Virginia Beach, spoke from the pulpit Sunday, directly addressing his dropped charges involving attempted solicitation of a minor.

"Over the past several months I've been the subject of vicious and inhuman accusations," Blanchard told the congregation.

"These statements are demonstrably false. You dress up a lie. You can twist it. You can misrepresent it. But I'm sorry, a lie is still a lie."

Chesterfield County police say Blanchard was one of 17 people arrested as part of a two-day sting operation in October 2021. He was charged with felony solicitation of prostitution with underage people in Chesterfield, Virginia.

Investigators said they communicated undercover with Blanchard and the others on social media, pretending to be underage girls advertising prostitution. All 17 who were charged had arranged to meet with someone whom they thought was underage and was soliciting sex, and when they arrived, officers arrested them.

Blanchard first appeared in court for these charges in November 2021.

Then, during a preliminary hearing in October 2022, the Chesterfield County prosecutor told a judge the case would be nolle pros. That means the charges are dropped for now, but they can be refiled at a later date if prosecutors feel they have enough evidence against Blanchard to move forward.

Until the charges were dropped, Blanchard stepped down from his pastoral duties at Rock Church International.

During a sermon Sunday, Blanchard told church members he’s kept quiet until now at the advice of lawyers. He went on to express his intent to pursue legal action.

“The word of God tells us not to bear false witness against our neighbor," Blanchard said. "But, because particular organizations and individuals have made it very clear that they intend to destroy our church, my family and this ministry ... They have really left us no other choice but to fight for the truth.”

In November, 13News Now obtained police documents that detail detectives' interview with Blanchard on the night of his arrest, as well as messages between Blanchard and undercover detectives.

In the documents, investigators said they posed as a 17-year-old girl online for prostitution and received a message from Blanchard. They agreed to meet by the Chesterfield Mall but Blanchard first asked the teen if she was affiliated with law enforcement.

The undercover detective posing 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.

During questioning after Blanchard's arrest, investigators said they asked him multiple times what made him chat with the person online, but he kept saying he didn't know how he came upon the website where he chatted online. 

Later on, detectives said Blanchard blamed his lack of memory of the website on "brain problems."

During the interview, he said he never solicited anyone for sex and never confirmed in the messages he wanted any sexual contact.

An official from the Chesterfield County Juvenile Domestic and Relations Clerk's Office has told 13News Now that charges against two other men in the undercover sting were also dropped.

In a statement, Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney Stacey Davenport stressed that this type of conclusion, as in Blanchard's case, doesn't have the same legal effect as a not-guilty finding.

13News Now reached out to Rock Church for further comment but didn't hear back by the time this article was published.

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