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Virginia police officer sentenced to 18 years for raping minor in exchange for ‘deal’

Crystal Graham
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A former Portsmouth Police Department officer was sentenced Tuesday to 18 years in prison and five years of supervised release.

Cleshaun A. Cox, 31, must also register as a sex offender for violating the civil rights of a minor victim by forcibly sexually assaulting the victim 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.”

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, he encountered a 17-year-old female during a call for a noise complaint.

After a more senior officer told the victim to drive home, Cox followed the victim in his marked police vehicle and instead Cox instructed the victim 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.

The victim 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. The victim complied because she feared Cox and believed that she had no other choice.

According to court documents, Cox allegedly raped the victim. Cox admitted that he knew the victim 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.

“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.”

The FBI Norfolk Field Office investigated the case.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.