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Risks of cheating on your wife range from embarrassing your family to maybe catching disease or maybe catching a 'crazy'
"Regret is not rape," Frank Manley told jurors during Thursday's opening statement in the unjust rape and kidnapping charge against Mateen Cleaves.
The above "unjust" description is putting it mildly about the case against the former all-state basketball star from the old Flint Northern High School who went on to become an All-American at Michigan State before playing on four NBA teams and then playing professionally overseas. Cleaves, who led MSU to its last national championship in 2000, was a national TV analyst for NCAA basketball at the time of his arrest as March Madness began in 2015. He was arrested for an incident that took place in September of 2015.
"She wanted a celebrity hook-up," Manley insisted about a beautiful woman in her mid-20's who got drunk at a Grand Blanc Township bar after a charity golf outing and got into a vehicle four years ago with Cleaves, now 41. The ride ended at a motel in Mundy Township. Video evidence will show this so-called victim fixing her hair in the mirror on the passenger side visor as Cleaves went inside to pay for a room. He left the car engine running, which kinda makes kidnapping go out the window in my book.
Manley called the encounter "consensual sex" because he says that's what the young woman wanted when texting away at the former basketball star for a few hours to convince Cleaves to meet her with friends at Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Grand Blanc.
"Women throw themselves at professional athletes all the time," Manley told the jury. He explained how cheating on a wife can risk ruining a marriage, wrecking a family and bringing embarrassment to one who gives into the temptation of a beautiful woman. "Cheating on your wife is the only crime my client committed and that's not against the law," Manley said. "He embarrassed himself, his family."
He also lost a good-paying gig as a TV analyst for college basketball games on CBS. Fox TV Detroit Sports ended his job on their broadcasts for Detroit PIstons' games. All without Cleaves being convicted in a court of law.
So much for the old adage that you are presumed innocent in America until found guilty.
Too many TV newscasters are caught up in the "Me Too" movement and much of the slanted media coverage would make Cleaves seem guilty. Providing fair coverage wouldn't fit the narrative of their rush to add a touch of sensationalism to ignore facts.
The facts are clear to me.
They will be to the jury, too, after hearing all the evidence — or lack of it.
After watching this so-called victim testify at the preliminary exam when her story changed more times than they change pitchers these days at a Detroit Tigers' game, my advice for his defense attorney team is to stop calling her a victim. She's a complainant.
Perhaps she should become a defendant for perjury when this trial ends.
Her story at the preliminary exam had more holes in it than Swiss cheese. She walked into the courtroom near perfect 10 status in beauty, but the rating slipped to the "1" rating when she opened her mouth.
"When you cheat, you risk catching a disease, you risk catching a crazy," Manley told jurors. "My client, Mateen Cleaves, caught a crazy."
It was a great line in the annals of Metro Flint area defense attorney opening statements I've heard in my time. Manley imprinted in the minds of jurors exactly what he's trying to prove this case is all about — a drunken woman going after one of our area's most famous celebrity types, heading to a motel with him and then letting regret turn into a strange blend of crazy.
At least that's how Manley is explaining things to the jury. He has been described before in this space a few times as one of the best lawyers in all of America. He's the premiere guy in the Metro Flint area if you need a defense attorney.
Just last week, he prevailed in a case many of his peers insisted was impossible to win. Manley won a not guilty verdict in the case where a truck driver rear-ended a vehicle on I-69 in a construction zone as he was approaching the Swartz Creek area last year, killing a father and his 3-year-old child.
Manley told jurors how an "accident" is called an "accident" because it wasn't something done on purpose. He also pulled out a 911 call just minutes before the fatal crash when a motorist warned that the construction zone wasn't well marked and so unsafe that someone could crash.
He had little time to celebrate the victory, marching right back into the local news spotlight with the Cleaves trial. It's a case that has not only captivated the local media, but it has attracted statewide headlines and national attention, too. ESPN had a reporter at Thursday's opening day of testimony.
Following two days of jury selection that was closed to the public by Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Celeste Bell, opening arguments were presented first inside her court room on Thursday morning.
It's a terrible travesty that charges were ever filed. A miscarriage of justice. That's how I've described it since before a judge tossed out the case at the preliminary exam stage.
Veteran lawyers tell me that happens maybe once every 10,000 cases or so.
Lawyers will tell you a peanut butter sandwich can be bound over. Only an ant hill of evidence is needed to send a case to circuit court for trial.
Yet it didn't happen in this case.
Manley convinced former Genesee County 67th District Court Judge Cathy Dowd there wasn't sufficient evidence to bind over the case to Genesee County Circuit Court, yet Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's office appealed the decision.
It's a political case.
Judge Dowd dismissing the case at the preliminary exam was an embarrassing blow to Worthy.
Appealing Judge Dowd's decision was to justify saying it wasn't a political stunt to bring charges during March Madness for maximum attention. The promo spots for NCAA games had long displayed Cleaves on the screen with tears streaming down his cheeks as One Shining Moment blasts as the theme song of prevailing at the end of March Madness. Cleaves was a big target.
He was a convenient target for Worthy.
She needed a way to strike back against a tidal wave of bad publicity.
it's my view that Worthy's work was designed to help her battle national headlines about thousands of untested rape kids her office had on its hands after they stacked up at Detroit's police evidence room. Worthy wanted to show she was "tough on rapists" and went after a big name guy. A famous guy. The biggest problem was that she went after the one case in her pile that is the least likely to win. In fact, her decision is a slap in the face to rape victims who had their evidence stacked up in storage. Untested for years. Forgotten.
Worthy didn't try to get justice for any of them until the national media picked up the story and piled on after Detroit's newspapers, TV stations and radio stations made life difficult for Worthy around town for a bit. How could anyone ignore so many rape victims who wanted justice?
Well, she would turn over a new leaf and be tough on rape suspects — starting with Mateen Cleaves. That's how I interpret her behavior.
When Judge Dowd delivered the ultimate kind of embarrassment by not even letting the case get to a jury, Worthy had no choice but to react by appealing the decision. She had a worse political nightmare on her hands because what kind of tough prosecutor would ever bring a charge so weak that it can't even survive the preliminary exam test?
In what Yours Truly views as a horrible miscarriage of justice, former Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Archie Hayman reversed Judge Dowd's decision. He went against the judge who heard the unconvincing claims of Worthy's seemingly unstable assistant prosecutor. She watched video evidence that supported Cleaves. She judged witnesses as unreliable.
Judge Dowd said exactly that about the video evidence and the testimony by witnesses. The "unstable" crack is my label but what kind of stable attorney can be threatened with "time out" for not acting professionally. The lawyer kind of time out is contempt of court, and we witnessed a few times when Judge Dowd threatened to put Worthy's Assistant Prosecutor, Lisa Lenzy, in a jail cell for her courtroom behavior. Once, the handcuffs of a deputy actually came off his belt clip before one of Lenzy's fellow team members at the prosecution table talked the judge out of arresting Lenzy, and calmed down their colleague.
I'm waiting for her to object to the color of Manley's tie. Anybody in the courtroom, especially jurors, can sense she was already quickly getting under the skin of Judge Bell with constant objections to any question Manley asked during the first day of testimony.
Manley's first day performance drew rave reviews from some of Genesee County's top lawyers who watched in an overflow viewing room one floor above Judge Bell's courtroom. Tom Pabst and Glenn Lenhoff were both there — two of the area's best civil attorneys who were drooling over the prospects of representing Cleaves in a civil case after the not guilty verdict comes in a few weeks from now. Dean Yeotis, another prominent civil attorney, was on hand. So, too, were two others who are among the area's top local defense attorneys behind Manley — his brother Mike Manley and Jay Clothier. Other lawyers popped into the court room or upstairs in the overflow room from time to time during Thursday's proceedings.
The courtroom was packed all day with some of Cleaves' supporters unable to get inside.
Flint City Councilman Eric Mays sat in the front row all day and a parade of Cleaves' supporters thanked him for attending during breaks in the case.
Councilman Mays says he thinks it's a "bad case" and noted, too, how Cleaves has been a role model to Flint's young people in the tough neighborhoods. His story was an inspiration to them. He rose up from the north end of Flint to become an All-American at MSU, a national champion and a first round draft choice in the NBA.
Mateen Cleaves gave back to our community, too.
His "One Goal, One Passion" program generated thousands of dollars for needy children at the holidays in Flint, and around our state.
He gave clinics and inspired youngsters to chase their dreams, work hard in the classroom and believe in themselves.
He generously gave of his time and was quick to lend his name to help any worthy cause raise money to help kids.
That;s what he was doing one fall day in 2015 out at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc Township. He and Detroit Pistons' broadcaster George Blaha were the celebrity stars used to attract a crowd for a charity golf event to benefit Whaley Children's Center in Flint. It's one of three major events every year that raise funds to operate Whaley's home for abused children.
An unprofessional group of Whaley employees, including the complainant, went drinking after the event at a nearby bar and convinced Cleaves to join them. Testimony will reveal how the complainant hopped into his car after the drinking was done, stood up in the seat and poked her body through the moon roof while raising her hands and allegedly told Cleaves at one point during the ride how she "had been with ballers before." She admitted on the witness stand during the preliminary stand that she noticed during the ride how her phone had died and she asked Cleaves to use his charger, yet an earlier version insisted she didn't remember getting into the car or riding to the motel. Her story kept changing.
She also recalled stopping at a gas station and borrowing a clerk's phone to go into the restroom to call her boyfriend for help. Manley mentioned during his opening statement Thusday how the place was "lit up like Yankee Stadium" and offered plenty of opportunity to yell for help, if this was kidnapping.
She testified during the preliminary exam that when Cleaves opened the restroom door and told her it was time to go, she left with him. At another point, she said she didn't remember riding from the gas station to the nearby motel. Watching a video of herself fixing her hair in the visor mirror of the passenger seat, Manley asked why she didn't escape while Cleaves left the motor running to go inside and pay for the room. She stunned everyone when countering how she wasn't sure it was her in the video and she didn't remember it.
The next thing she remembered, according to her testimony at the preliminary exam, was being naked on the bed with Cleaves on top of her. At another point, she remembered Cleaves kissing her and admitted "kissing him back." She didn't remember how she got naked. Cleaves' story to police was that she went into the bathroom and came out completely naked, then began puking and ran out of the room as he also got naked.
Cleaves is captured on video running out of the room and witnesses will testify how he yelled, "You're naked. You're naked" before grabbing her and leading her back inside the room. What happened next, according to her testimony last year and her story to police, was an assault. She testified how she "went along with it" and never said, "No" although also saying she didn't remember how she wound up on the bed with Cleaves on top of her. When realizing he was moving her panties to the side to have sex with her, she claims to have thrown him off the bed and ran out of the room again. She forgot to explain how she got her underwear back on as revealed by the motel video surveillance.
Quite a trick, Manley argued during his opening statement Thursday to the jury when revealing how cell phone evidence will show that his client made numerous phone calls during the short time they were back inside the room. He says Cleaves was trying to get her dressed, and video evidence indeed shows she had more clothes on every time she left the room.
"So the prosecutor wants you to believe he sexually assaulted her while making numerous phone calls and trying to get her dressed," Manley said. "He was a professional athlete, but that would be quite a trick."
"Looney" LInzy made absolutely no sense with anything she said in her opening statement. As the first day of calling witnesses to the stand progressed, she did enough yelling and screaming to make sure every juror doesn't like her already. By early next week, they will hate her. Trust me on it.
Mateen Cleaves will soon be cleared.
But where does he go to get his reputation back?
Well, not far. Plenty of prominent civil lawyers are waiting in the wings to unleash a civil suit unlike any civil suit we've ever seen in the Metro Flint area. Mundy Township folks may be calling him Mayor Mateen after they get done suing the pants off all the people that taxpayers there elected to run their police department. Their own cops will testify against them, and one (Officer Ogle) is already suing them over this incident. A special thanks to Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton for recusing his office and letting Worthy take the case, since all the taxpayers of Genesee County will now pay dearly for her mistakes. And Worthy? If ever there was a case to purge through prosecutorial immunity, this is it. The big time PR of going after a big name rapist was exactly what was needed to rescue her political career after all the untested rape kits piled up in Detroit. Unfortunately, she might not get much cash out of her. One of her scandals in office was how she lost a house to foreclosure when unable to make ends meet on her $156,000 annual salary.
Mike Killbreath hosts The Morning Gazette Radio Show weekdays from 8 am until 9:30 am on CCNRadio.net. He also hosts The Daily Gazette Sports Weekend Show every Saturday from 10 am until noon, and The Daily Gazette Sports Night Show weekdays from 6 pm until 7 pm.
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Mike Killbreath is a veteran newspaper man who began hosting a radio show in 2011. He currently serves as Executive Editor at The Daily Gazette and at My AM Advantage while hosting "The Morning Gazette Radio Show" on the local radio air waves live every weekday morning from 8 am until 9:30 am. Mike's background includes winning awards at the state and national levels for investigative reporting, local columns, feature writing, sports writing and sports columns. He has also served as President at the Flint Area Chamber of Commerce since 2011 and has served on its Executive Board since mid-2010. He also counts experience on other local Chamber of Commerce boards and has served for many years on numerous civic groups and non-profit organizations. Mike also hosts the longest-running local sports talk show on the local air waves with his Saturday 10 am broadcast of The Daily Gazette Sports Weekend Show. He talks sports every weeknight, too, on The Michigan Sports Zone Show and The Daily Gazette Sports Night Show. You can find Mike's programs by clicking to CCNRADIO.net for links to them.
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