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Press Release

Former Virginia Police Officer Sentenced for Sexually Assaulting Minor

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Former Portsmouth, Virginia, Police Department (PPD) Officer Cleshaun A. Cox, 31, was sentenced today in federal court to 18 years in prison and five years of supervised release and required to register as a sex offender under the Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act for violating the civil rights of a minor victim by forcibly sexually assaulting her while on duty. 

“The defendant abused the public's trust and exploited his authority as a law enforcement officer in one of the most egregious ways imaginable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Sexual assaults perpetrated by police officers are heinous crimes, especially when children are the targets, and particularly deplorable when facilitated by the sheer power and authority that police wield over the public. We commend this brave young survivor and her family for having the courage to come forward. We will continue to seek justice for victims of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers and others who abuse their authority.”

“There are no words to describe Cox’s breach of our public trust,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The pain that he inflicted on the victim and the community is incalculable, but I hope this resolution can bring some measure of peace to those affected.”

“Sworn police officers are entrusted with safeguarding and protecting our community. Cleshaun Cox broke that trust when he, while acting under color of law, physically assaulted a teenage girl and violated her rights to bodily integrity,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Dugan of the FBI Norfolk Field Office. “I hope today’s sentence brings some semblance of justice to the victim and her family, as well as sends a message that officers who abuse their positions of power to commit abhorrent acts will be held accountable.”

According to court documents, Cox admitted that on or about May 27, 2019, while he was in uniform and working in his official capacity as an officer with PPD, he encountered Victim 1, a 17-year-old female, during a call for a noise complaint. After a more senior officer told Victim 1 to drive home, Cox followed Victim 1 in his marked police vehicle and instead Cox instructed Victim 1 to drive to a parking lot. There, he offered her a “deal” whereby he would not charge her for fabricated traffic offenses if she would perform a sexual act. Victim 1 stated that she did not want to engage in any sexual acts with Cox. Nevertheless, he instructed her to get into his vehicle as he drove to an isolated area. Victim 1 complied because she feared Cox and believed that she had no other choice. There, he raped Victim 1. 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 FBI Norfolk Field Office investigated the case. 

Special Litigation Counsel Kathryn E. Gilbert of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Rebecca Gantt for the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.

Updated November 28, 2023

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 23-1332