Despite a special prosecutor concluding that prostitution-related charges brought against him by local police nearly two years ago were "sound," a Virginia judge agreed last Wednesday to expunge the case from the record of Rock Church International Senior Pastor John Blanchard, who, while he did not preach on Sunday, was on stage to pray over a baby during a dedication on Sunday.
"It's kind of like it never happened," Virginia Beach attorney and legal analyst Ed Booth told 13NewsNow about what the expungement means.
"When that record is run later by an employer, by law enforcement, by whoever, the information is not there. That's what an expungement means, really," he added.
Blanchard was among 17 men accused of solicitation of prostitution after an online sting operation by police on Oct. 29, 2021. The married father of two was charged with solicitation of prostitution of a minor and use of a vehicle to promote prostitution, which are felonies. He was arrested at a hotel where he was supposed to meet a detective posing as a 17-year-old girl.
After almost a year of legal maneuvering, however, the charges against Blanchard were withdrawn or nolle prossed ahead of a criminal trial last October. A case that is nolle prossed means prosecutors could bring those charges again.
A report from the Chesterfield County Police Department said Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney Stacey Davenport cited a "lack of evidence" in not moving forward with the case against Blanchard. Outspoken members of the public accused Davenport of giving Blanchard special treatment.
William Blaine, a special prosecutor who was appointed to review whether the case against Blanchard should be reopened, would later call the criminal charges against the pastor "sound" but chose not to refile the case because Blanchard was honoring the terms of a deal he struck with the Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
"Again without going into detail about what the new evidence is, the new evidence — in my respected opinion — does not affect the prosecution of what happened on that [offense] date in October of 2021," Blaine wrote in a June 2 letter to two Chesterfield judges. "The evidence, if admissible, might be found to bolster the government's case against Defendant."
Blaine did not object to the expungement request by Blanchard and his legal team to seal the records of his prostitution-related charges.
In granting the request, Circuit Judge Steven Novey noted that he had no other choice under the law.
Rock Church, which has a weekly attendance of more than 2,000, did not respond to calls for comment on the expungement from The Christian Post on Tuesday. The church has not made any additional public statements on Blanchard's status at the church beyond one published on its website last fall saying Blanchard would voluntarily step away from ministerial duties.
"Under the guidance of our legal counsel, we cannot make a statement or comment concerning the accusations against Rev. John Blanchard at this time. We are all committed to walking in integrity and truth at Rock Church International and will continue to take steps to do so," the church said. "Pastor Blanchard has voluntarily stepped back as lead pastor and from all his ministerial duties until this present situation is totally resolved."
While he might not have been preaching at the church at the time, CP reported that he was still ministering at other churches.