By Gary Ridley, Originally published by The Flint Journal, June 28, 2016
FLINT, MI–A court hearing in the sexual assault case against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves was pushed off until next month following a contentious hearing that included calls from his attorney to disqualify the prosecutor and defense questions about the alleged victim’s mental health.
Defense attorney Frank J. Manley served Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s Office Tuesday, June 28, with a motion seeking to disqualify it from prosecuting Cleaves due to a potential conflict of interest.
The motion claims the alleged victim previously worked for a Wayne County sexual abuse task force, leading Manley to question whether she ever had contact with Worthy’s office in the past.
Manley’s motion claims Worthy’s office has made “significant efforts to garner publicity in this matter,” pointing specifically to press releases Worthy’s office released after charging Cleaves.
Manley also accused Worthy’s office of purposely waiting to charge Cleaves on March 16 as the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in an attempt to garner even more publicity.
A second motion filed by Manley seeks a competency evaluation for the alleged victim after police responded to a recent suspected suicide attempt.
“My whole focus here is fundamental fairness,” Manley said.
However, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey challenged Manley’s notion of fairness, and accused the defense attorney of purposely waiting to “ambush” her with the motions.
Manley’s motions were filed minutes before court closed on Monday, June 27, and the prosecutor’s office wasn’t served with them until moments before a preliminary exam was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
“We got no notice of any motion that was filed,” Lindsey told Genesee District Judge M. Cathy Dowd.
Dowd worked to keep both sides focused as they exchanged barbs in front of more than a dozen media members in attendance for Tuesday’s hearing. The judge, multiple times, yelled at the attorneys to be quiet as they attempted to argue over one another.
“I’m not going to have the two of you playing to the press,” Dowd said.
Worthy’s office has not yet filed responses to Manley’s motions.
“At the appropriate time, the prosecution will respond in court to the motions filed by the defense,” Worthy’s spokeswoman Maria Miller said.
A hearing on Manley’s motions is scheduled for July 29.
Cleaves, 38, was arraigned March 16 on multiple felony charges, including counts of unlawful imprisonment and criminal sexual conduct. He is currently free on a $150,000 personal recognizance bond.
The case was handled by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office after Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton recused himself from the case over a conflict with a potential witness.
Even though the court case is in its infancy, the proceedings have been heated.
Worthy blasted Genesee County in March over claims Cleaves was provided a clandestine “back-door arraignment.”
When announcing the charges, Worthy’s office claimed Cleaves and Manley were expected to appear in court March 17 for the arraignment.
However, Worthy claims her office was given short notice that the hearing was being moved to the morning of March 16. No prosecutor was in attendance for the hearing.
“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,” Worthy said following the arraignment. “There was an agreement with all of the parties that the defendant would turn himself in and be arraigned in open court tomorrow — not for him to have a back door arraignment.
“The public has a right to know and frankly, I am extremely disappointed that this was handled so clandestinely today. I hope this is not a precursor of things to come.”
Manley was critical of Worthy’s claims, saying Cleaves could turn himself over to a judge any time after the charges were issued. He also claimed it was her office that released information on the case against his client before he was ever charged and made personal statements about Cleaves without ever meeting him.
“She personally leaked info before any arraignment or charges,” Manley said. “She’s never met Mateen Cleaves.”
Worthy’s office has denied leaking any information.
The case became even more heated when Lindsey said May 17, that a second woman has come forward to claim she has been sexually assaulted by Cleaves.
Lindsey made the statement during a probable cause hearing in Genesee District Court on previous sexual assault charges filed against the former NBA player and television sports commentator.
The assistant prosecutor declined to release specifics on the accusation, saying only that a correspondence was sent to her office with new allegations.
Manley called the accusation a “stink bomb.”
“It’s a pattern of trying to smear Mr. Cleaves without any evidence,” Manley said after the May hearing.
A Mundy Township police officer, whose department investigated the case, claimed he was pressured by township officials to portray Cleaves as guilty of an alleged sexual assault.
Officer Brian Ogle filed a lawsuit May 4 alleging he was disciplined by the Mundy Township Police Department after he allegedly reported violations of state law by the township to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, which is handling the Cleaves investigation.
The lawsuit did not provide further details on the alleged state laws violated or who violated them.
Ogle claims he was involved in the Cleaves investigation, which began in September 2015. The lawsuit alleges he “found himself at odds” with the township and police department because he would not “portray Mr. Cleaves as guilty of sexual assault.”
Following Tuesday’s hearing, Manley referred to Worthy as the “Queen of Media,” and accused her of using news and television media to garner attention for herself.
Cleaves and a group of people, including the alleged victim, went a local bar after a charity golf outing where they had drinks, the prosecutor claims. Around 1 a.m. they all left the bar.
The alleged victim’s boyfriend gave a friend a ride home, prosecutors say. The alleged victim, thinking they would return to the golf club, rode with Cleaves in his car, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors allege Cleaves took the victim to a motel located in the 2400 block of West Grand Blanc Road in Mundy Township, held her in a room against her will and sexually assaulted her.
Police say in a search warrant affidavit obtained by Mlive-The Flint Journal that the victim then ran from the motel room on two separate occasions, but Cleaves caught her each time and dragged her back to the room.
A review of the motel’s surveillance video confirmed the woman’s account, according to the affidavit.
Cleaves faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
* Read original article with video of Attorney Frank Manley addressing the press here.