Worthy: Cleaves got secretive ‘back door arraignment’

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy called former basketball star Mateen Cleaves’ arraignment Wednesday on sexual assault charges a “secret proceeding.”

Former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, right, and his attorney, Frank J. Manley, center, are shown following Cleaves' arraignment Wednesday.

Cleaves, an MSU basketball great, was charged Tuesday with an alleged sexual assault in September of a 24-year-old Mount Morris woman.

On Wednesday, Cleaves, 39, of Grand Blanc appeared in 67th District Court in Genesee County for a formal arraignment that did not include the presence of a Wayne County assistant prosecutor.

“I don't know how they do things in Genesee County, but we try our best to be as transparent as possible when my office is involved,” Worthy said in a statement. “We do not approve of secret proceedings unless it is proscribed by law.”

The case is being handled by Wayne County because Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton has a conflict of interest. According to his office on Tuesday, Leyton discovered his family has a business relationship with one of the witnesses.

Originally, Cleaves was supposed to turn himself in for processing and arraignment at 9 a.m. Thursday.

“There was an agreement with all of the parties that the defendant would turn himself in and be arraigned in open court tomorrow — not for him to have a back door arraignment,” Worthy said. “The public has a right to know, and frankly, I am extremely disappointed that this was handled so clandestinely today. I hope this is not a precursor of things to come.”

Efforts to reach 67th District Court presiding Judge Christopher Odette were not successful but Cleaves’ attorney, Frank Manley, said he requested “under court rules” that no photos be taken of Cleaves during the arraignment Wednesday.

Former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, left, listens as his attorney, Frank J. Manley, speaks to the media following Cleaves' arraignment Wednesday.

“I didn’t want the media circus,” Manley told The News.

Cleaves was released on a personal recognizance bond of $150,000. A probable cause conference is scheduled to be held March 29 with a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 5.

He was ordered by District Judge M. Catherine Dowd to surrender his passport, have no contact with the alleged victim and continue his employment. Manley said Wednesday Cleaves’ employment positions, some with sports networks, are “touch and go” now due to the seriousness of the charges.

Outside the courtroom, Cleaves stood next Manley, who said he looks forward to questioning the alleged victim "about the actual facts."

Manley said Wednesday his client's name is "being dragged through the mud" and that he is innocent and is the victim of “character assassination.”

"Mr. Cleaves' reputation speaks for itself," he said. “I fully expect the prosecutor’s case to implode. I guarantee you he will prevail (in court).”

Manley would not answer any questions about the woman but did say “my understanding is that she refused medical treatment at the alleged scene of the crime.”

Mateen Cleaves

Cleaves is charged 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 charges carry a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

The charges stem from an incident in September following a charity golf outing.

“The evidence in this case will show that the alleged actions of this defendant were not only criminal, but arose out of a sense of entitlement sometimes found in prominent people,” Worthy said in a statement Tuesday.

According to Worthy’s office, Cleaves and a group went to a bar after the golf outing. At 1 a.m. Sept. 15, the group left the bar. The Prosecutor’s Office said the woman left with Cleaves in his car, thinking they would return to the golf club.

Cleaves allegedly then took the woman to a motel in the 2400 block of West Grand Blanc in Mundy Township and held her there against her will. He then is accused of sexually assaulting her.

The woman was able to escape and received help from another woman in a nearby room, Worthy’s office said.

Cleaves starred at Flint Northern before becoming a household name at Michigan State.

In 2000, he led the Spartans to a national title, the second in program history, playing through a leg injury in the second half of the championship win over Florida.

The image of Cleaves and head coach Tom Izzo, embracing and crying after the title victory, is one of the lasting images from that season.

“I don’t know anything, of course, except I’m saddened by it,” Izzo said Tuesday. “I’m disappointed, bummed out, and everything else. Personally, I don’t see him doing anything against somebody’s will, I really don’t. I think I know him well enough for that.”

Cleaves was the No. 14 overall pick by the Pistons in 2000, and had a 10-year pro career, most of which was spent in the NBA’s Development League. He retired in 2009, and in 2010, he joined Fox Sports Detroit as a Pistons analyst. He now hosts a show on SiriusXM and is an analyst for CBS Sports.

In 2013, he was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.