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Press Release

Former Portsmouth Police Officer Sentenced for Sexually Assaulting Minor

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

NORFOLK, Va. – A former Portsmouth Police Department (PPD) officer was sentenced today in federal court to 18 years in prison, 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.

“There are no words to describe Officer Cox’s breach of our public trust,” said Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney 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.”

“The defendant abused the public trust and 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. “We commend this brave victim and her family for coming forward. We will continue to seek justice for victims of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers and others who abuse their authority.”

“Sworn police officers are entrusted with safeguarding and protecting our community,” said Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s 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. 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, Officer 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 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.

In August 2021, Cox pleaded guilty in Portsmouth Circuit Court to charges of carnal knowledge and abduction and was sentenced to serve 5 years in prison. He completed his state sentencing pending federal sentencing and served approximately 4.5 years in state custody.

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 sentencing by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth W. Hanes.

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 prosecuted the case.

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 November 28, 2023

Civil Rights