CHESTERFIELD, Va. — On October 11, 2022, all charges related to attempted solicitation of an underage minor were dropped against John Blanchard, a senior pastor at Rock Church International in Virginia Beach.
Nearly a year prior, the public controversy began:
Community, church members react to news of Blanchard's arrest
Detectives in Chesterfield County, Virginia, said they connected with 17 people on social media during the last week of October 2021 who were seeking to have sex with people underage.
After setting up a place to meet in person, police arrested all of them on October 29, including Blanchard, 51. He faced multiple prostitution-related charges.
A spokesperson with Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office told 13News Now that Blanchard was released. After the arrest, he was seen on stage in Rock Church's Facebook live stream, speaking to people in the pews on Oct. 31, 2021.
Blanchard steps down from pastoral duties
On Nov. 1, Rock Church International announced in a since-deleted Facebook post that Blanchard would be stepping down from pastoral duties during legal proceedings. Before its deletion, 13News Now was able to obtain photos of the post:
"We can not make a statement or comment concerning the accusations against Rev. John Blanchard at this time," the post said.
After Blanchard's arrest, former member talks about charges taken out against him years earlier
A former member of the church spoke with 13News Now about her experience with Blanchard in 2018, which led her to be ex-communicated.
She said that in 2018, Blanchard offered to come to her home to help her work on the church's website. Blanchard outlined that, as well as what she says happened after Blanchard's arrival, in court documents filed in Virginia Beach in 2019, the year she took out charges against him.
Blanchard was acquitted of those charges. He filed a civil case against her in Virginia Beach Circuit Court, saying that the allegations she made were false. He has a similar civil case against another church member for defamation.
Blanchard appears in court on prostitution charges
Blanchard appeared in Chesterfield County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Nov. 15, 2021.
Blanchard's lawyer asked that the judge consider changing the conditions of Blanchard's bond which stipulated he could not leave the state. The lawyer said there is church business outside of Virginia, and that Blanchard travels for his job.
The judge asked Blanchard to "maintain good behavior" until Blanchard's trial which was originally scheduled to take place on Jan. 6, 2022.
Judge: Blanchard can leave the state
Two days after his initial court appearance, the judge agreed to drop the restriction but said that Blanchard only can travel outside of the state for work purposes. Blanchard also has to let the church know when and where he travels.
The judge's decision allowed Blanchard to continue working/serving at Rock Church locations other than the one in Virginia Beach from which he "stepped back" from his duties after his arrest.
New details emerge from Blanchard's court documents
In February, 13News Now took a look at available court documents on Blanchard's travels.
There were about 10 requests for travel between November 2021 and February to states such as Ohio, West Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Pennsylvania. The documents said the travel deals with a company called "Zion Solutions" and not Rock Church.
Blanchard's attorney asked the judge to continue Blanchard's hearing, saying there are "evidentiary issues" with the case, but he would not go into further detail as to why.
He was expected back in court for his preliminary hearing on March 22.
Hearing postponed for Blanchard
In April, after a few court appearances where the prosecutor and Brooks went back and forth on what evidence can be used in the court case, attorneys told the judge they needed time to come up with a resolution.
The judge granted the attorneys about two months to sort out how they want the case to move forward. If a judge denied the agreement between the attorneys, the prosecutor would bring in witnesses to testify in the next court hearing.
This postponement would go on several more times. Read more about it here.
Charges dropped against Blanchard
On Oct. 11, 2022, the court hearing in Chesterfield lasted only a matter of seconds.
The prosecutor told the judge that after reviewing the charges, the case would be nolle pros. That meant the charges would be dropped, but could be refiled again at a later date if prosecutors felt they had enough evidence against Blanchard to move forward.
Blanchard's attorney would only say he was "pleased with the outcome" of the case.