Trial in rape case against Mateen Cleaves set to begin in Flint
Flint — Jury selection is underway in the rape trial of former Michigan State University basketball star and former Detroit Pistons Mateen Cleaves.
The trial begins nearly four years after allegations of rape were made against Cleaves, 41, by a Mount Morris woman in her mid-20s who said he raped her in a Flint-area motel in September 2015. Cleaves and the woman allegedly met hours before at a golf outing.
Cleaves is on trial on 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. The charges carry up to 15 years in prison.
Cleaves denied the rape allegations in a March 2016 tweet that read: “My family and I are devastated by these false charges. I am innocent and the allegations are without merit.”
The Detroit News does not typically identify those who say they have been sexually assaulted.
A guest at the hotel testified during a November 2016 preliminary examination hearing in the case that she saw a man, later identified as Cleaves, dragging a woman back into a hotel room.
The guest, a woman at the same Knights Inn on Grand Blanc where Cleaves and the woman had allegedly gone, said the woman was begging and crying hysterically "Help me! Help me! Help me!"
At a December 2016 preliminary examination hearing, the woman said she had gone to a gathering at a bar with Cleaves where the charity golf event at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club was held.
She said she and Cleaves stopped at a gas station and that she fell asleep before waking up at the room at the motel with Cleaves. She said he began kissing her and that she told Cleaves he was a married man and that she had a boyfriend, but things still progressed.
The woman said she told Cleaves she “wanted to go home” when she first got into the motel room with him. She did admit she kissed him even after saying that.
“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.
Cleaves' attorney, Frank Manley, said the woman made “inconsistent statements” about her encounter with Cleaves and called it a case of “he said-she said.” Manley said there was no rape.
During a preliminary examination hearing, a Mundy Township police officer testified the woman told him during a dispatched run to the motel on a call of "trouble" that she had not been raped.
In December 2016, Genesee District Judge M. CathyDowd, now retired, dismissed all charges against Cleaves, saying "there are a number of factors that led (her) to believe something else was going on" between Cleaves and the woman.
But Cleaves was ordered in 2017 to stand trial after now-retired Genesee Circuit Court Judge Archie Hayman ruled following an appeal from Wayne County Prosecutor's Office that Dowd "did abuse her discretion of power" in dismissing the case against Cleaves.
Following a hearing in April 2017 that resulted in the reinstatement of the rape case against him, Cleaves said the woman was lying and that he is "tired of going through this.”
Last year, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to review Hayman's decision to reinstatement the charges against Cleaves.
The case is being tried by the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office after Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton recused himself, citing a conflict of interest.
Genesee County Circuit Judge Celeste Bell is presiding over the trial at the county courthouse in Flint.
Cleaves, a Flint native, helped lead MSU to a men's basketball championship in 2000 and played for four NBA teams after college, including the Pistons.