Ex-Michigan State Star Mateen Cleaves Acquitted of Sexual Assault Charges

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorAugust 20, 2019

Denver Nuggets guard Mateen Cleaves looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter of the Nuggets' 118-95 victory in an exhibition NBA basketball game in Denver on Friday, Oct. 10, 2008. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Former Michigan State and professional basketball player Mateen Cleaves was acquitted on Tuesday of sexual assault charges in Genesee County Circuit Court, according to John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press

Cleaves, 41, was charged with unlawful imprisonment, assault with intent to commit sexual penetration and criminal sexual conduct. He faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The jury in the Flint, Michigan courtroom began deliberations at 1:45 p.m. ET and took two-and-a-half hours before reaching a verdict.

The prosecution said that Cleaves dragged a Mount Morris, Michigan woman into a motel room before sexually assaulting her in 2015. Wisely provided further details regarding the prosecution's arguments.

"Cleaves forced himself on a drunken woman who ran from a motel room wearing only a bra in an attempt to flee him, they argued. Drunk and naked himself, they say, Cleaves pulled her back inside, twice, and raped her.

"Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor David Champine told jurors that Cleaves' lawyer would try to argue the sex was consensual but the evidence would show otherwise. He urged them to 'look at the surveillance video of the woman running away, screaming 'help me, help me, help me' and then being forced back into the room.'"

Per Wisely, one of Cleaves' attorneys, Mike Manley, "said in his closing argument that the sex was consensual, noting that the woman posed for pictures with Cleaves, put his phone number into her phone, went to a motel room with him, where she acknowledged kissing him.

"When the woman left the room wearing only her bra, Cleaves was doing the right thing by bringing her back so she could get dressed, Manley said."

Per the Associated Press, the decision comes after a four-year legal battle in which a district judge dismissed the charges in 2016 before the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office filed an appeal, stating that the judge abused "discretion of power." After the Michigan State Supreme Court refused to review the decision in 2018, the case went to trial.

Cleaves led Michigan State to the 2000 NCAA Division I men's basketball championship. He then played professional basketball from 2000-09, including stints with four NBA teams from 2000-06.