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Judge dismisses Cleaves rape case; prosecutor to appeal

Mike Martindale, The Detroit News

Flint — Former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves said Monday he was happy to “walk away a free man” after a judge dismissed rape charges against him, though prosecutors said they will appeal.

His arm draped around his wife and surrounded by family and friends, Cleaves left Flint District Court eager to regain his reputation.

“I’m just happy,” he told reporters, “to walk away from this a free man. I’m thankful for my wife, family and friends standing beside me and for a lawyer to fight for my life as if I was his own son.”

A judge ruled there was not sufficient evidence to send the case to trial.

“There is insufficient evidence on charges,” Judge Cathy Dowd of 67th District Court ruled Monday. “This case is dismissed.”

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement it will appeal the decision.

Defense attorney Frank Manley described the case outside court as a “she said-she said-she said-she said-she said” case of rape that “just didn’t happen.” He said there were too many inconsistencies in the story by the Mount Morris woman in her mid-20s who brought the allegations.

Manley didn’t call any witnesses in the fifth and final day of the hearing. His client faced charges of unlawful imprisonment, assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration, second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He had pleaded not guilty.

Manley had asked Dowd on Friday to dismiss the charges against Cleaves, 39, of Grand Blanc saying the charges are “baseless” and the prosecution hasn’t proven its case.

In a statement released Monday evening, Manley said: “We are thrilled that justice was served. We were confident that the facts of the case would allow justice to prevail.

“Four police officers on the scene determined no assault or crime had been committed and the complainant also stated, ‘I was not assaulted’ on the night of the event. It just didn’t add up. Judge Dowd’s ruling is supported by all the evidence and facts presented.”

In her summation Monday, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey said the fact the alleged victim made statements which questioned some of her behavior — admitting to kissing Cleaves and not telling him “no” — made her rape charges that much more believable.

“If she wanted to make something up, she would have said she said ‘no’ to him,” Lindsey said.

The Wayne County prosecutor handled the case after Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton recused himself, citing a conflict of interest.

The woman said Cleaves sexually assaulted her at a Knights Inn motel room after both had attended a charity golf outing and a gathering with her friends at a bar.

She said she twice escaped from the hotel room both were in before Cleaves pulled and dragged her back inside. After leaving a third time, she ended up in the room of a woman next door, Coleen Dowdall, who called police.

Dowdall spent a day on the stand and testified she saw Cleaves pulling and dragging a naked woman back into his room. Cleaves was unclothed as well, she said.

Dowdall said 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.

The Detroit News generally does not name victims of sexual assault.

Mundy Township police Sgt. Todd Johnson, who was back on the stand Monday, testified Friday he questioned the alleged victim at the motel and she told him she had not been raped. Johnson, a 20-year veteran and shift supervisor, said he was one of four officers to answer a call of “trouble” at the motel in the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 2015. Johnson said he asked the woman about being physically hurt or assaulted and she told him “no,” that she had not been and refused medical treatment.

“(The woman) said she wasn’t a victim of any crime,” he said. Johnson said the woman told him she and Cleaves “messed around” when they got to the motel room and that she took her clothes off.

The case highlighted by charges and countercharges by both sides as it worked its way through the legal process.

At a June hearing, Lindsey said her office has received information about another possible victim, but Manley denied the allegations, calling them a “stink bomb.”

Manley also tried to get the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office removed from the case because the alleged victim worked for the county on a sexual/child abuse task force.

In a related case, a second Mundy Township police officer sued the township and its police department alleging they pressured him to portray Cleaves as guilty of the alleged sexual assault. Brian Ogle filed a civil lawsuit under the Whistleblower Protection Act in Genesee County Court, alleging he was disciplined after he reported violations of state law by the township and police department.

He said he found himself “at odds with the defendants” because he would not “acquiesce to defendants pressure to portray Mr. Cleaves as guilty of sexual assault.”

Ogle was told Feb. 4 he was in violation of the township’s rules and regulations and suspended with pay Feb. 25, the lawsuit says. Ogle is seeking more than $25,000 in past and future economic damages.

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Staff Writers Oralandar Brand-Williams and Jennifer Chambers contributed.