CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A former Virginia Beach pastor, facing prostitution-related charges for soliciting sex from minors online is now allowed to leave the state.
John Blanchard appeared in a Chesterfield County courtroom on Wednesday morning for a bond modification hearing. He is one of seventeen men busted in a Chesterfield sex sting operation last month.
Blanchard is a Senior Pastor at Rock Church in Virginia Beach and has been since 2013. However, two weeks ago the megachurch announced that Blanchard “voluntarily stepped down” in an online post, but in court on Tuesday the senior pastor’s attorney told the judge he’s “on leave.”
In late October, Chesterfield Police arrested Blanchard in their second online chatting sting of the year. Authorities say Blanchard believed he was talking to an underage girl on social media but was really chatting with an undercover detective. They add that Blanchard drove to a county hotel for a sexual encounter with the young girl and was met by police and handcuffs.
Craig Moulden, with the VCU Athletics Department, was also caught in the same-sex sting operation. Moulden was in court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing, facing the charges of felony solicitation of prostitution and use of a vehicle to promote prostitution– the same charges Blanchard is facing.
After Blanchard was arrested, he was granted bond, which means he must stay in the Commonwealth. But Blanchard was in court on Wednesday to change that. He wants the conditions of his already granted bond amended so that he can travel outside the state for work.
Blanchard’s attorney argued on Wednesday that his client and his wife run a production supply company and travel out of Virginia for business, which he can no longer do. Blanchard relayed to his attorney the specific dates and locations that include Atlanta, Tampa, New York and Pennsylvania.
He added that the 51-year-old only has one traffic infraction on his criminal record, when he was 18-years-old. The judge heard more argument from Blanchard’s attorney that the former pastor has been married for thirty years and has two daughters that depend on him. Also mentioning that thus far, Blanchard has been at every court appearance and plans to do so moving forward.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney fired back in the courtroom and stated “it’s two felonies and this is very serious.” She also said she feels ‘uneasy’ about changing the bond stipulations.
Ultimately, the judge allowed it and granted Blanchard permission to leave the state on specific days, only for work The judge also ruled that Blanchard must travel with his wife out of state and check in with his bondsman.
After Wednesday’s hearing Blanchard and his attorney had no comment when asked by 8News.
Blanchard and Moulden will both be back in court for an expected trial on January 6th.