Commonwealth’s Attorney says case involving Va. pastor might move forward
Stacey Davenport is recommending a special prosecutor be assigned to the case
CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - During a brief press conference on Thursday morning, Chesterfield’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Stacey Davenport, said a case involving a Virginia pastor and a child sex crimes sting might move forward after charges were dismissed.
John Blanchard was the lead pastor at Rock Church in Virginia Beach.
In October 2021, he was one of 17 people arrested in a Chesterfield child sex crimes sting. He was charged with felony solicitation of prostitution, but his charges were dropped a year later.
Now, Blanchard wants his record cleared, which Chesterfield’s Police Chief Col. Jeffrey Katz says he’s firmly against. According to court documents, Davenport has acknowledged Blanchard’s legal right to make the request. A judge will have the final say, but at this point, there has been no public ruling in that case.
“As a result of new information related to the case against John Blanchard that was provided to my office less than 48 hours ago, I intend to move the court to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether this case should now be prosecuted,” Davenport said Thursday.
WVEC reports that Davenport said the decision to nolle prosequi the charges was based solely upon the law, the facts of the case, and the professional experience and ethical duties of prosecutors.
Davenport also stated that it’s her office’s job to determine if a case can be successfully prosecuted.
However, Col. Katz says the decision not to move forward with the case was not due to a lack of evidence or a substandard investigation.
On Thursday, Davenport said that “due to the repeated public comments and unfounded political attacks levied upon my office by both Chesterfield County Police Chief Jeffrey Katz and Delegate Tim Anderson, I cannot ethically make any decisions on whether or not this new information should impact future prosecutorial decisions in this matter.”
“Because this may, once again, become a future pending criminal case, I cannot make any further comments on the facts or the circumstances surrounding anything related to this matter,” Davenport said.
Katz responded Thursday morning in a Facebook post to Davenport’s statement with the following:
I have privately - and then publicly - requested reasonable answers to reasonable questions; questions many are rightfully asking…questions that now actually stand a chance of getting answered. If Ms. Davenport chooses to frame those questions as a political attack, so be it. The wheels of justice are back in motion.
For whatever the motivation, thank you, Stacey T. Davenport.”
“What will happen next is the court will identify a prosecutor from another jurisdiction who is able and willing to take on this responsibility,” said NBC12 Legal Analyst Steve Benjamin.
Once the special prosecutor is chosen, Benjamin said they will investigate the case.
“Reviewing the evidence, potentially interviewing witnesses to make a charging decision, and that is whether charges should be filed,” said Benjamin. “There is no timeline on that procedure. What’s important is that it be a sufficiently thorough investigation.”
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