Skip to main content
Press Release

Former Portsmouth Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting Minor Victim

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. – 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 high school student, during a call for a noise complaint. After another, more senior officer told Victim 1 to drive home, Cox—unbeknownst to the other officer— 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, including by falsely stating he did not know Victim 1’s true age and by falsely stating that it was Victim 1 who had proposed a sexual act to him.

“Police officers are entrusted to safeguard and protect our community, especially vulnerable children,” said Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney 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.”

“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.”

“Our sworn police officers have a duty to uphold the constitution and are entrusted with protecting the safety and quality of life of the communities they serve,” said Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Norfolk Field Office. “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. Cox’s conduct is not reflective of the honor and professionalism with which Portsmouth Police officers perform their duties, and I am grateful for the department’s collaboration in this investigation.”

Sentencing is scheduled for November 28. Under the plea agreement, Cox faces at least 15 years and up to 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 in Portsmouth Circuit Court to charges of carnal knowledge and abduction and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, 10 years of which was later suspended by the court.

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

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wilson Hanes accepted the plea.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:23-cr-84.

Updated July 14, 2023

Civil Rights