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Judge dismisses sex charges against ex-Michigan State star

FLINT, Mich. -- A judge on Monday dismissed all charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a charity golf event and a visit to a bar in 2015.

Judge Cathy Dowd in Flint, Michigan, heard days of testimony, including details from the woman, who said she twice tried to get away from Cleaves but was pulled back into a motel room and sexually assaulted.

A witness confirmed that she saw the woman try to escape a room at the Knights Inn near Flint. But a police officer summoned to the motel said the woman never indicated that she was assaulted. 

Cleaves, 39, was charged with unlawful imprisonment, assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, second-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually assaulted. The woman testified that she never said “no” to Cleaves “but I told him I wanted to go home.” They met at a golf event that day, and she later sent him a text message to join her and others at a bar.

In dismissing the charges, the judge said there were credibility problems with the woman’s testimony.

“I’m supposed to believe he’s pulling her back in the room to commit” criminal sexual conduct, Dowd said. “There are a number of factors that lead me to believe something else could be going on. She is the one that invited Mr. Cleaves to come to the bar. She is the one that voluntarily left with Mr. Cleaves to go someplace else.” 

The legal standard to send someone to trial in Michigan is probable cause. It’s a much lower threshold than beyond a reasonable doubt, which determines guilt or innocence at trial. Prosecutors said they’ll appeal Dowd’s decision. 

Cleaves released a statement, thanking his wife and lawyers and saying “justice was served.” 

In his closing remarks to the judge, defense attorney Frank Manley called it a case of “regret,” not “rape.”

But prosecutor Lisa Lindsey said if the woman didn’t want to be at the motel with Cleaves, then “why did she run out of the room desperately trying to get away from the defendant?”

Cleaves led Michigan State to the NCAA basketball championship in 2000 and remains close to the program. Mateen is the middle name of coach Tom Izzo’s son.

Cleaves appeared in 167 games for four NBA teams.

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