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Manhattan Beach police officer charged with sexting a juvenile

Manhattan Beach police vehicle parked on the beach near the pier.
A Manhattan Beach police vehicle is parked near the pier in July. An officer in the department has been charged with sending sexually explicit messages to a juvenile, prosecutors said Wednesday.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

A Manhattan Beach police officer has been charged with sending sexually explicit messages to a juvenile whom he met when she came to the department’s headquarters to report a crime, prosecutors said Wednesday.

John Cheatham, 33, was charged with two counts of contacting a minor for sex and one count of annoying or molesting a child, according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

The teenager and Cheatham met sometime in 2019, when she arrived at Manhattan Beach Police headquarters to report a crime, prosecutors said. From November 2019 to June 2020, Cheatham allegedly sent “numerous sexually explicit messages through social media sites,” according to the statement.

“Instead of providing assistance and support to the victim, this officer is alleged to have abused his authority when she was most vulnerable,” Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement.

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The girl was attempting to report a sexual assault to police when she first came into contact with Cheatham, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the case who requested anonymity in order to discuss the matter candidly.

Cheatham was hired in October 2018, according to a post on the Manhattan Beach Police Department’s Facebook page. A department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Cheatham’s status with the agency.

He was arrested by Los Angeles police on Feb. 21 and released on his own recognizance, jail records show. An arraignment has been scheduled for June. Cheatham’s attorney, Dmitry Gorin, said his client plans to enter a not guilty plea.

“He respects the criminal justice process and looks forward to a complete review of all evidence in court. Mr. Cheatham is presumed innocent and is entitled to the same constitutional rights as any criminal defendant. No testimony has been presented in court against him, nor has anyone cross-examined the government witnesses,” Gorin said. “In short government has not proven any of the charges against him beyond reasonable doubt. We respectfully ask the public to keep an open mind as this case proceeds through the court process.”


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