Cleaves judge on Worthy: Don’t insult my intelligence

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Flint — A judge will decide late next month whether the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office will be disqualified from trying former Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves’ alleged sex crimes case.

Cleaves, 38, of Grand Blanc was charged in March with the alleged sexual assault of a woman after a charity golf outing Sept. 15. The incident allegedly took place at the Knights Inn motel in Mundy Township.

Cleaves’ attorney, Frank Manley, has been pressing for Kym Worthy’s office to be removed from the case for a variety of reasons — chief among them, Manley has accused Worthy of trying to build her celebrity image by prosecuting the former basketball great.

“This prosecutor has an emotional interest in the case,” Manley told 67th District Judge Cathy Dowd on Friday.

Manley also said the prosecutor’s office should be disqualified because of the tone of her press releases regarding the case — including a March release that appeared to have angered Dowd on Friday.

In that statement, Worthy was critical of the district court’s initial handling of the case, which was done without presence of an 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. We do not approve of secret proceedings unless it is proscribed by law.”

Dowd fired back Friday, saying: “I’m not a country bumpkin here, people. ... Don’t insult my intelligence.”

The case is being handled by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office after Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton recused himself citing a conflict of interest.

Manley also challenged the timing of the charges, which were near the start of the NCAA basketball tournament — an event Cleaves has covered as a broadcaster.

Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey shot back Friday, saying there was no truth to that allegation.

“The NCAA tournament and Mr. Cleaves were the last things on my mind,” she said.

Manley also has said the alleged victim worked for Wayne County on a sexual/child abuse task force, which should disqualify the prosecutor’s office to avoid the perception of impropriety.

Worthy’s spokeswoman, Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller, disputed that claim, saying: "Our office doesn’t have a Wayne County child abuse task force, nor have we been able to document any program by that name in Wayne County.”

Manley has said his client is disputing published reports suggesting the former athlete used date rape drugs during the alleged sexual assault.

Dowd, meanwhile, made mention of a video in the case and should it be entered into evidence warned "there shall be no broadcasting, rebroadcasting of the parties or still shots derived from the video of the parties’ faces or genitalia."

Cleaves played four seasons at Michigan State (1996-2000), leading the Spartans to the 2000 national championship. The Flint native played parts of six seasons in the NBA, including his rookie season with the Detroit Pistons, who selected him in the first round of the NBA draft.

Jacob Carah is a Flint-area freelance writer.