FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A jury acquitted former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves on Tuesday of allegations he sexually assaulted a woman in a motel room four years ago.
The verdict announced in a Genesee County courtroom in Cleaves’ hometown of Flint came after a nearly-two week trial that included the testimony of the Mount Morris woman, who told jurors that she had wanted to leave the motel room but Cleaves continued to force himself on her.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for a little more than two hours before delivering its verdict. Cleaves sobbed after the last of four not-guilty verdicts was read.
RELATED: Former Michigan State Star Mateen Cleaves Charged With Sexual Assault
“Thank you for giving me my life back,” Cleaves said.
Juror Michael Lambert said the verdict came quickly after he and other jurors concluded Cleaves’ accuser wasn’t believable.
“Her testimony was consistent lies,” Lambert said, adding jurors noted the frequency he woman forgot key parts of her story.
Outside the court following the verdict, Cleaves continued to proclaim his innocence.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for four years,” he told reporters outside the court. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Evidence against Cleaves, 41, included a video that prosecutors contended showed the woman pulling away from Cleaves. Prosecutors argued she tried twice to escape from the motel room.
The woman testified during the trial last week that she had gone to a gathering at a bar with Cleaves at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club.
The woman said she and Cleaves stopped at a gas station and that she fell asleep before waking up in a room at the motel with him. The woman said she told Cleaves she “wanted to go home” but admitted she kissed him even after saying that.
RELATED: Miss Michigan Loses Crown Because of Racist Tweets
“He started kissing me. I kissed him back, and I remember being on the bed,” the woman said. 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.
Cleaves did not testify. His attorneys told jurors that the woman lied about what happened because she felt guilty about cheating on her boyfriend.
During closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor David Champine said the woman, of Mount Morris, did not want to have sex with Cleaves and told him so.
“You can see her in the video pulling away,” Champine told jurors, adding she was able to push him off in some way and get out of Knights Inn in Mundy Township on Sept. 15, 2015. “He grabs her and starts pulling her. You can see her in the video pulling away … she doesn’t want to go back but his decision is he’s going to take her back.”
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER:
Cleaves’ defense team told jurors it was a clear case of consensual sex and that the woman is lying because she felt bad because she had cheated on her boyfriend with him.
“Regret is not rape,” argued defense attorney Michael Manley, contending there wasn’t a “sliver of DNA” evidence that backs up her claims.
Cleaves was acquitted on all charges, including unlawful imprisonment and assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration. He had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison had he been convicted.
The trial itself came after a long legal battle that started in late 2016 when a district judge dismissed the charges, saying that there were a number of factors that suggested “something else was going on” between Cleaves and the woman.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK. FOLLOW US ON TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM
But in 2017, the charges were reinstated after the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office filed an appeal that contended the judge had abused her “discretion of power” in dismissing the charges. Then last year, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to review that decision, clearing the way for the trial.
Cleaves is a revered figure in Michigan, an integral part of a Michigan State team that won the national championship in 2000 before his six-year NBA career.
And on Tuesday, sitting in a courtroom was another reminder of that team: Coach Tom Izzo. Izzo told The Detroit News that he did not know the details about the allegations against his former star player but wanted to be in the courtroom to support Cleaves as he would “any of my guys.”
Jonathan Majors Video Evidence, ‘Woman Recanting’ Assault Claim Will Clear Actor Of Charges, Lawyer Says
Stephen A. Smith Explains Why He Kicked Max Kellerman Off ESPN’s ‘First Take,’ Twitter Reacts
Larsa Pippen Says She and Ex-Scottie Had Sex ‘4 Times a Night for 23 Years’
'Creed III' Actor Jonathan Majors Arrested On Assault Charges
Marjorie Harvey Gifts Steve Harvey A Virgil Edition Maybach
Eva Marcille Files For Divorce From Husband Michael Sterling After 4 Years of Marriage
Beyoncé And Adidas To End Ties On IVY PARK In Amicable Split
Gisele Bundchen Allegedly Dating Tom Brady’s Neighbor, Jeffrey Soffer