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Correction: This story has been updated to correct the last name of M. Cathy Dowd, who is a retired Genesee District Court judge.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin Thursday in the rape trial of former MSU basketball star and NBA player Mateen Cleaves.

After two full days of jury selection, a panel was seated late Wednesday afternoon in Genesee Circuit Court, according to a clerk in the office of Judge Celeste Bell, who is presiding over the trial.

The trial begins nearly four years after a Mount Morris woman in her mid-20s alleged that Cleaves raped her in a Flint-area motel in September 2015. Cleaves and the woman allegedly met at a charity golf outing hours before.

Cleaves, 41, is being tried 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. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Cleaves has denied the allegations. In a March 2016 tweet, he said: “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.

During testimony at the preliminary examination for Cleaves in November 2016, a guest at the motel testified that she saw a man, later identified as Cleaves, dragging a woman back into a room.

The guest said the woman was begging and crying hysterically: "Help me! Help me! Help me!"

The Mount Morris woman said during her testimony at the preliminary examination that she had gone to a gathering at a bar with Cleaves at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club, where the golf event was held.

The woman said she and Cleaves stopped at a gas station and that she fell asleep before waking up in a room at the motel with him. She said he began kissing her and that she told Cleaves she had a boyfriend.

The woman said she told Cleaves she “wanted to go home” but admitted 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 has made “inconsistent statements” and called it a case of “he said-she said.” Manley said there was no rape.

In December 2016, Genesee District Judge M. Cathy Dowd, 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 the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office that Dowd "did abuse her discretion of power" in dismissing the case against Cleaves.

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.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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