Former Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves acquitted on all charges in sexual assault trial

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Former Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves, who played on Tom Izzo’s National Championship team in 2000, was acquitted on all charges Tuesday in a sexual assault trial. (AP/Al Goldis)
Former Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves, who played on Tom Izzo’s National Championship team in 2000, was acquitted on all charges Tuesday in a sexual assault trial. (AP/Al Goldis)

Former Michigan State star and NBA player Mateen Cleaves was acquitted on sexual assault charges on Tuesday in Flint, Michigan, stemming from a 2015 incident in a motel room, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Cleaves was accused of sexually assaulting a 24-year-old woman in a motel after a day of partying at a charity golf outing. The woman alleged she was held against her will in the motel room and sexually assaulted, and that Cleaves continued to force himself on her repeatedly when she said she wanted to leave.

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Cleaves’ attorneys said that he had consensual sex with the woman, who returned to the motel room “of her own free will” after the golf outing and a trip to a bar, according to the Associated Press. They said she lied about the incident because “she felt guilty about cheating on her boyfriend.”

Cleaves was acquitted of all charges Tuesday after a nearly two-week trial, which included unlawful imprisonment and assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration, per the report. The 41-year-old faced a maximum of 15 years in prison.

"I just thank God,” Cleaves said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I've been waiting for this day for four years. (My attorneys) are lifesavers, to save my life, the way they did.”

His initial case was dismissed in 2016, however the charges were reinstated after prosecutors filed an appeal arguing that the judge had abused her “discretion of power,” according to the Associated Press. The initial ruling was overturned last year, which prompted the trial this month.

Cleaves played at Michigan State from 1996-2000, and was a member of its national championship team in 2000. The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year averaged 12.5 points, 6.6 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game throughout his career. He was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft and spent six seasons bouncing around the league, most notably spending time with the Sacramento Kings and the Seattle SuperSonics.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo attended the closing arguments on Tuesday, too, according to the Detroit Free Press. He declined to comment about the trial, other than saying that Cleaves “is part of the family.”

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