‘Help me,’ witness in Cleaves case says woman pleaded

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News
The preliminary examination for former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves on rape charges is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning in a Flint courtroom.

Flint — “Help me. Help me. Help me,” begged a woman who authorities say was raped by former Michigan State University basketball star Mateen Cleaves, according to testimony Tuesday.

“She was just crying hysterically,” said Coleen Dowdall, who was staying at the Knights Inn on Grand Blanc Road on Sept. 15, 2015, when the 24-year-old woman allegedly came looking for help. “She asked me to call 911. I said I’m talking to them now.”

Dowdall said the woman looked scared and frightened and was slightly injured.

“Her knees were scraped up with a little blood (on them),” Dowdall testified before 67th District Court Judge Cathy Dowd.

“She wasn’t saying anything (and) she cried a long, long time,” Dowdall said about the woman. The woman was intoxicated and said she had been involved in sexual activity, added Dowdall, who said the woman cried and called for her mother.

Testimony in Cleaves’ preliminary examination, which will determine if he goes to trial, continues at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The alleged victim, whose name is not being released, is expected to testify during the hearing which is scheduled to go through Thursday.

The Detroit News does not normally publish the names of victims of sexual assault.

It was the third time, Dowdall said, that she had seen the woman outside her motel door.

Earlier Tuesday, she testified she twice saw Cleaves, 39, pulling the woman back into a room that morning, around 2 a.m., while she was a guest at the same Flint-area motel.

Dowdall said she was staying at the motel when she heard loud yelling and looked out and saw a naked man and a woman outside her door.

“He had her hands and he was dragging ... pulling her back in the room,” Dowdall said. “She was leaning backward and he was pulling her (forward). She didn’t want to go” back to room No. 121.

The woman, according to Dowdall, had sex between the first and second time she was allegedly pulled into the motel room.

Cleaves is charged with sexual assault. His wife sat in the courtroom as Dowdall testified she called to the Mundy Township motel’s front office to tell the manager what she had seen.

“I told her there were two naked people outside and he was yelling at her,” Dowdall said. “I said I think you should call the police. I never saw anything like that before.”

Not long afterward, Dowdall said she heard another commotion outside the door of her room, No. 125. She said she opened the door and saw the woman again, this time clad in her underwear, asking her for help.

Dowdall said she called police after she saw Cleaves appearing to be more aggressive with the woman.

“She was on her hands and knees and (Cleaves) was over on top of her. She was on the ground,” Dowdall said. “He was trying to pick her up. She was crying. She was screaming. She wasn’t going anywhere because he was in the back of her. She asked me to help her. I looked at him and said I’m on the phone right now with police. He didn’t say nothing. He picks her up. She wasn’t kicking or fighting. She didn’t want to go.”

Dowdall said she didn’t know it was Cleaves until another motel guest, a man, told her who it was. Dowdall also said she wrote down the license plate of Cleaves’ vehicle. She gave it to police in a subsequent phone call.

The alleged victim came back to Dowdall’s room, which was close to the motel room where Cleaves allegedly dragged the woman into, and stayed there until police came.

The alleged victim wore Cleaves’ jersey but later took it off and tossed it near the bed in Dowdall’s room as she became sicker and sicker, Dowdall said.

Also testifying was Steven Klein, a clerk at a Flint-area gas station, who said Cleaves came in after a 5-foot, 10-inch blond woman came into his station about an hour before the reported incident at the motel asking for a phone so she could make a call.

He said the woman was disheveled but did not appear to be in distress although she looked unhappy. He said her request for a phone “wasn’t presented to me as an emergency.”

Klein said Cleaves and the woman left the gas station together.

Tuesday’s proceedings erupted into courtroom fireworks after Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey accused the judge of showing favoritism toward Cleaves’ defense attorney, Frank Manley, which she accused of making “improper” comments toward her.

“You don’t have to believe it your honor. The truth is the light,” Lindsey said.

Dowd threatened to expel the prosecutor from the courtroom unless she got an apology, which Dowd did.

“I’m not (partial) to him,” Dowd said. “I’m not going to put up with her disrespect. I’ve warned her before. I have tried so hard ... to stay impartial. I’m tired of the innuendo.”

The Wayne County Prosecutor’ s Office is trying the case after Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton recused himself, citing a conflict of interest.

Cleaves denied the rape allegations in a March 16 tweet, which read: “My family and I are devastated by these false charges. I am innocent and the allegations are without merit.”

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

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