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Press Release

Former Virginia Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Offense for Sexually Assaulting Minor Victim

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A former police officer pleaded guilty today in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia to violating the civil rights of a minor victim by forcibly sexually assaulting her. 

According to court documents, Cleshaun A. Cox, 31, admitted that on or about May 27, 2019, while he was in uniform and working in his official capacity as an officer with the Portsmouth Police Department in Portsmouth, Virginia, he encountered Victim 1, a 17-year-old female, during a call for a noise complaint. After another, more senior officer told Victim 1 to drive home, Cox followed Victim 1 to her home in his marked police vehicle. Cox instructed Victim 1 to drive to a parking lot, where he then instructed her to get into his vehicle. Cox then drove Victim 1 to an isolated area. There, he forced Victim 1 to have vaginal sex with him against her will. Cox admitted that he knew that Victim 1 was only 17 years old and that he knew that she did not want to have sex with him. Cox also admitted to lying to state investigators about his actions that night.

“The defendant violated his oath and abused his power to sexually assault a child,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division. “The federal government will not tolerate law enforcement officials who commit acts of sexual assault and abuse, and we will continue to seek justice for the survivors of these heinous crimes.”

“Police officers are entrusted to safeguard and protect our community, especially vulnerable children,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Police officers are not above the law. Those who abuse their position to commit such abhorrent acts must and will be held accountable.”

“Our communities trust police officers to keep their members safe, and the defendant violated that trust when he sexually assaulted a child while on duty,” said FBI Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI is committed to ensuring that law enforcement officers who abuse their authority are held accountable for their crimes.”

Sentencing has been set for Nov. 28. With his guilty plea, Cox faces a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release and registration as a sex offender under the Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. In August 2021, Cox pleaded guilty to state level charges of carnal knowledge and abduction and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, 10 years of which was later suspended by the court.

The FBI Norfolk Field Office investigated the case. 

Special Litigation Counsel Kathryn E. Gilbert of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Rebecca Gantt for the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

Updated July 14, 2023

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 23-765