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Mateen Cleaves' attorney tells jury: 'Regret is not rape'

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Flint — Mateen Cleaves and a woman who has accused the former MSU basketball star and NBA player of rape had consensual sex, his defense attorney said Thursday during his opening statement in Cleaves' trial on sexual assault charges.

Mateen Cleaves.

"Regret is not rape. Regret is not rape," said Cleaves' attorney Frank Manley. "Consensual sex activity between two adults is not a crime."

Manley said the woman was in a Flint area motel room with Cleaves in September 2015 "of her own free will" and engaged in kissing with Cleaves.

"By the time the truth comes out, the truth will set my client free," Manley told jurors and Judge Celeste Bell in Genesee County Circuit Court. "The truth will be there; the truth will be self-evident."

Manley said: "These are adults. She never suggested she said no. Consent is consent is consent."

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey disagreed.

Lindsey told the jury of 10 women and four men that the woman told Cleaves she wanted to leave but he continued to force himself on the woman even having alleged unwanted sex with her.

"She rode voluntarily with him but she didn't want to be in the motel with him," she told jurors. "She escaped two times (from the motel room).

Lindsey said Cleaves "had complete control of what happened in that room."

The prosecutor said the woman ran out of the motel room and ran into another motel guest who witnessed Cleaves pulling the woman back into the room.

"She was crying, she was hysterical, she was terrified," said Lindsey. The prosecutor said once police arrived to investigate the incident, they "favored" Cleaves over the woman.

Manley said the officers, who included a woman, did their jobs professionally and thoroughly. An officer had reported that the young woman told them no crime had been reported when they showed up at the Knights Inn in Mundy Township to investigate a call of trouble during the night of Sept. 15, 2015.

Cleaves, 41, 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 and the woman, a Mount Morris resident who was in her mid-20s, allegedly met hours before at a charity golf outing.

The Detroit News does not typically identify those who say they have been sexually assaulted.

At a December 2016 preliminary examination hearing, the woman said she had gone to a gathering at a bar with Cleaves at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club, where the charity golf event 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.

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.

In December 2016, Genesee District Court 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 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 reinstate the charges against Cleaves.

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.