Cleaves accuser: ‘I was ... in a panic state’

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News
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Flint — The woman at the center of rape allegations against former Michigan State University basketball star Mateen Cleaves testified Thursday she doesn’t remember how she got into a motel room she twice tried to escape.

Former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves listens to defense attorney Frank J. Manley question witness Coleen Dowdall during cross-examination in the second day of a preliminary examination, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, at Genesee District Court in Flint, Mich. A judge is hearing testimony to determine whether Cleaves goes to trial on sexual assault charges.

The Mundy Township woman, in her mid-20s, testified Thursday that Cleaves, 39, met her and some acquaintances at a bar after a charity golf outing on Sept. 14, 2015. She said she had some drinks, and as the gathering broke up, she agreed to leave with Cleaves.

She said she expected him to take her back to Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club, where the charity event was held, but later acknowleged under cross-examination that she wasn’t sure about that information.

After stopping at a gas station, she said she got back into Cleaves’ vehicle, closed her eyes and doesn’t know if she fell asleep. But she says she woke up in a room at the Knights Inn in Mundy Township with Cleaves.

Thursday’s continuation of Cleaves’ preliminary examination in Flint District Court was the first time he faced his accuser in court. He showed no emotion during her testimony. Judge Cathy Dowd barred the media from revealing the woman’s identity.

The preliminary hearing, which continues Friday, will determine whether Cleaves will face trial on rape charges brought by the local prosecutor.

Under cross-examination, the woman testified that she had been drinking all day at the golf outing and also had a beer and some drinks containing vodka and tequila once Cleaves joined her and her co-workers at the bar.

Witness: Woman claimed she couldn't fight off Cleaves

Cleaves’ attorney, Frank Manley, said Thursday the woman has made “inconsistent statements” about her encounter with Cleaves. He calls it a case of “he said-she said” and that there was no rape, only regrets. Manley said Cleaves did not “force” himself on the woman, a social worker who works for a Flint-area social service organization that Cleaves had donated to.

“It’s your word against Mr. Cleaves’ word,” Manley said Thursday.

Cleaves, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with with unlawful imprisonment, assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration, second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The woman testified Cleaves began kissing her in the motel room in the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 2015.

The woman said she told Cleaves he was a married man and that she had a boyfriend, but things still progressed.

“He started kissing me. I kissed him back and I remember being on the bed,” the woman said. She said she didn’t want to be “rude” to Cleaves, a celebrity donor to her employer, because she didn’t want her rejection of his advances to affect her job.

The woman said she was thinking “I didn’t want to be there” and ran out of the room. But, she testified, the former NBA player followed her and brought her back into the room. She said she ended up back on the bed and that Cleaves touched her in her pubic area and then pressed his genitals against hers, with penetration following.

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

The woman said she ran out of the room a second time to get away from Cleaves. She said she told Cleaves she wanted to go home.

“He came out and pulled me back into the room,” the alleged victim said. “I mouthed ‘help’ to the woman,” Coleen Dowdall, staying in room nearby.

The woman said after Cleaves pulled her back into the room a second time the next thing she remembered was being in a room with Dowdall, who called police, the alleged victim’s mom and her boyfriend.

“I was extremely upset. I was kind of in a panic state. I wanted to go home,” said the woman, who is a social worker. “I wanted to be out of the situation.”

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

Manley asked the woman “you never, ever told (Cleaves) ‘No’ did you?” The woman said: “No, but I told him I wanted to go home.”

Manley continued: “You never told him screw you, get away from me ... did you?” The woman replied, “correct.”

Manley also asked the woman why she didn’t call 911, police or someone to help her while she was at the gas station if she was fearful of Cleaves.

The court hearing is to determine if Cleaves should face trial in connection with the rape allegations. The exam was adjourned Nov. 17 after a death in the family of Cleaves’ defense attorney.

The woman’s testimony is similar to that of Dowdall, who was in the next room at the motel. She testified she saw Cleaves pulling and dragging the naked woman back into the room. Cleaves was unclothed as well, she said.

Dowdall testified that while the woman did not say Cleaves raped her, she did tell Dowdall: “I couldn’t fight him. I just laid there” during sex.

Also testifying earlier this month was a sexual assault examiner nurse at a Flint-area hospital who examined woman several hours after the alleged assault. Michelle Most said the woman told her Cleaves forced himself on her but also that there was kissing and other sexual contact between them.

While the alleged victim did not consider the encounter violent, she said she considered it a sexual assault, said Most, who works at the Genesys Regional Medical Center.

The preliminary hearing continues Friday.

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