April 9, 2017

Mateen Cleaves(at left) looks on as attorney Frank Manley speaks with the media outside the court room of Judge Cathy Dowd who dismissed all charges against the former Flint Northern High School star who went on to lead Michigan State to a national championship before a career in professional basketball. Behind Manley are Cleaves' wife and his long-time friend Robaire Smith.

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Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy (pictured above) has appealed Flint Judge Cathy Dowd's decision that there wasn't enough evidence at a preliminary exam to bind over Mateen Cleaves for trial on accusations of a sexual assault. Judge Archie Hayman will hear oral arguments Monday at 2 pm against the former Flint Northern star who went on to lead Michigan State to a national championship before a career in professional basketball.

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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 myAMadvantage.com while hosting "The Morning Gazette Radio Show" on the local radio air waves live every weekday morning from 8 am until 9:30 am at CCNRADIO.net. 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 has served on other local Chamber of Commerce boards and on numerous civic organizations over the years with many charitable works.


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Posted April 9, 2017

Mateen Cleaves case goes to Judge Archie Hayman for ruling on appeal of earlier dismissal

   FLINT — The media circus surrounding the phony sex assault charges against former basketball star Mateen Cleaves adds a new chapter Monday afternoon. 

   Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy wants more media attention for whatever future political run she's plotting. That's my take on why she's hoping to win an appeal on charges dismissed against Cleaves by a Flint judge last fall.

   Forget the collateral damage to the reputation of Cleaves. Never mind the financial devastation caused by losing his job as a college basketball analyst at CBS, getting canned from his gig on Fox Sports Detroit for Detroit Pistons' TV broadcasts and the legal bills from Frank J. Manley's office. Forget, too, all the good Cleaves was doing for poor families who got help with food and Christmas gifts donated in a statewide charity program led by Cleaves, with support from Meijer. Never mind all the young people touched by the "One Goal, One Passion" basketball camps across Michigan that Cleaves conducted.

   Prosecutor Worthy shrugged off the embarrassing blow her office took from Genesee County 67th District Court Judge Cathy Dowd refusing to bind over Cleaves to circuit court for a trial. Worthy has appealed the ruling of Judge Dowd who nearly jailed one of Worthy's assistants for unprofessional conduct during the circus that unfolded in front of her.

   Watching every minute of the testimony qualifies yours truly to support Judge Dowd's decision and to declare a terrible miscarriage of justice by the prosecutors led by Worthy. She has 254 of them in the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and more than 80 percent of the felony cases in Michigan are prosecuted by her team. Watching how they tried to railroad Cleaves makes one wonder how many dozens of innocent men and women are in prison.

   They didn't have the money of Cleaves — a former NBA performer for six season who also played professional basketballl overseas after NBA stops with the Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. He was able to afford the best legal defense money can buy, hiring Manley and his team.

   But it's the fame of Cleaves that made Worthy go after him with vengeance. A high profile conviction could win political points for an office rocked by bad publicity ever since she soaked up all the media glory possible when prosecuting Detroit's former mayor — Kwame Kilpatrick. She went after Kilpatrick and his mistress (Christine Beatty) in the text messaging scandal that led to the mayor's downfall. After Kilpatrick got probation but didn't pay his fines, Worthy prosecuted him again and campaigned to put him in prison. It was while behind bars that federal authorities eventually indicted him on corruption charges that ultimately got him 28 years in a federal prison. By the time the scandal was over, 35 people had been indicted by the feds for looting Detroit's tax dollars for personal gain.

   It was a scandal that left Worthy with her hand in the air to anybody who would listen, seemingly shouting to all: "Hey, me, me, me! I started all this that led to taking down Kwame Kilpatrick."

   She suddenly became a darling of the Democratic Party with some suggesting a run for Congress someday or maybe a bid for governor.

   But her image has taken a beating, however, since getting all the Kwame fame. It's my belief that's why she went after Cleaves.

   Forget the lack of evidence. Ignore untrustworthy witnesses, including the victim. Hide a few important facts from the defense team. It was a high profile guy sure to win headlines for Worthy's office.

   It's my opinion that she has now appealed Judge Dowd's decision to save face, win a trial date and hopefully dispose of the case by giving Cleaves a plea deal with a slap on the wrist sentence that includes a fine and probation.

   But Worthy underestimates the fighting spirit of Cleaves — a multi-sport star from Flint Northern High School who was a three-time Michigan State captain who led the Spartans to the 2000 national championship when named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. He was Big Ten Player of the Year twice and became MSU's only three-time All-American. Everything in his DNA suggests to me how Cleaves won't take a plea deal of any kind if Worthy's team convinces Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Archie Hayman to overturn Judge Dowd's earlier decision.

   Mateen Cleaves wants his name cleared.

   Oral arguments begin Monday at 2 pm in front of Judge Hayman, and it's hard for this observer to imagine any judge ruling any differently than Judge Dowd did.

   Cleaves didn't do it. Plain and simple.

   He has one of the best defense attorneys in all of America to defend his reputation. Frank Manley was marvelous in punching holes in the prosecution's shaky case throughout the preliminary exam in front of Judge Dowd. I said one day on The Morning Gazette Radio Show that Manley is so good that I think he could get Mateen off if he was guilty, and the fact he's innocent made Manley a very powerful advocate for him.

   Cleaning the clock of the Wayne County Prosecutor's team can be completed if Judge Hayman does the right thing after reading Manley's brief and hearing what I'm guessing will be one impressive oral argument about ending any idea of sending Cleaves to trial to face up to 15 years in prison.

   One thing is for sure about this case. The miscarriage of justice against Cleaves means Kym Worthy's name should be forever stricken from consideration for any office by people in power for Michigan's Democrat Party. As far as I'm concerned, that even includes re-election to the Prosecutor job she has held for four terms.

   Losing the Cleaves case could very well be the final nail in her political coffin.

   It hasn't even been a month since a Detroit News editorial blasted how she handled another case with Flint ties, writing: "When that error costs someone his freedom, and you’ve sworn yourself to getting justice right, not being able to say I got it wrong is more than just a character flaw; it puts you on the wrong side of morality... That’s where too many prosecutors stand in Michigan, and particularly in Wayne County."

​   It was indeed unconscionable and indefensible how Worthy defended her office’s slow response to freeing an innocent man — Davontae Sanford — after a Michigan State Police investigation turned up evidence that a Detroit Police official testified untruthfully during Sanford's appeal The liar turned out to be James Tolbert, who had gone on to serve as police chief in the City of Flint until recently fired by its new mayor — Dr. Karen Weaver. Oddly, and simply unbelievable in my book, Prosecutor Worthy opted not to prosecute Tolbert.

   “This was not the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office running rogue and trying to do something illegal to Mr. Sanford,” Worthy said in a sometimes spirited news conference that ran well over an hour as she tried hard to save face for her office after a judge allowed Sanford to walk out of state prison after spending nearly nine years there as an innocent man.

   Um, what do you call it then?

   Lawyers and others proclaimed Sanford’s innocence for years, but Worthy didn't listen. As the Detroit News recently penned, it was because of a "character flaw" and a decision that put Worthy "on the wrong side of morality."

   She's again on the wrong side of morality in the Cleaves case. All for political gain, in my opinion.

   And if the Tolbert lies in the most recent debacle for her office didn't kill her political career, let's examine why our state's most powerful Democrats won't be likely backing any of her dreams for a run at higher office.

   Consider how she racked up $16,000 on credit cards for furniture while falling behind by more than $7,500 on property taxes for her 3,600 square foot home that went into foreclosure proceedings. She paid $337,000 for it in 2004, but lost it because of her financial troubles. That's something hard to explain when making $154,000 per year in salary.

   But explanations would also be difficult to come up with when considering Worthy's children were in private school in Oakland County. The price tag for a student at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook is $31,000 per year. A report by the Detroit Free Press said Worthy was also paying big bucks for a daughter who was training for a run at a national title in synchronized figure skating. Pretty hefty bills for a woman who owes back taxes and who is behind on her house payments.

   Of course, she had nice furniture to relax in while trying to sort out her financial mess and while trying to figure out how to get out of jams with her dimming political career.

   If Worthy didn't have enough headaches after the recent case featuring evidence surfacing that Tolbert tricked a mentally challenged kid into confessing into murdering four people he didn't kill, her office got another big blow to its image when the Detroit News put four of her prosecutors on the hot seat for supporting a convicted Detroit police officer in a major federal drug case. She hasn't fired them despite the media report about how they wrote letters to a judge in support of the crooked cop. He robbed drug dealers to finance a luxury lifestyle fit for the rich and famous.

   One of the Assistant Prosecutors, who wrote to the sentencing judge in U.S. District Court that she once dated the convicted officer and still seeks advice from him on drug cases, challenged the evidence in the case by calling the federal government "dangerously vindictive." Really? And she hasn't been fired already?

   Worthy also had to recently reassign one of her supervisors in the office after Karen Plants got into hot water. The former head of the Major Narcotics Unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office was charged with professional misconduct by the State Attorney Grievance Commission for allowing an informant and two Inkster police officers to lie on the stand about a big bust seizing 47 kilograms of cocaine and for misleading jurors in her closing arguments to get a conviction. They repeatedly denied knowing each other, yet it turned out later that the informant was a paid snitch.

   Um, why only reassigned? How about firing her and fitting her for an orange jumpsuit?

   Perhaps Worthy's stance on perjury has changed since all that tough talk during the Kwame Kilpatrick saga. She hollered how perjury can't be tolerated in court after Kilpatrick lied on the stand to hide his affair with Beatty. "The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office does not condone perjury of any kind," Worthy fumed back then. "The office takes very seriously its obligations to the public, to the accused, and will continue to do so in the future."

   Yet her lying former supervisor gets away with it? And Tolbert gets away with lying on the witness stand to send an innocent man to prison?

   My November Editor's Notebook pointed out numerous flaws in the case against Cleaves. It's my opinion that there's merit for discipline of Worthy staff members for their actions, including how one of them shamefully acted in court to nearly get a contempt of court charge on a few occasions. Perjury was also committed by witnesses, including the so-called victim who couldn't keep her story straight.

   Worst of all in this entire saga is how it's a travesty to real rape victims, too, that so much time and money was wasted on a non-case.

   If I were King, Worthy would get prison for pushing her office to go after an innocent man like Mateen Cleaves and pretty much ruining his life. 

   And for all things, a phony rape charge at an office rocked by the 2009 scandal that made national headlines when one of Worthy's assistants discovered a massive pile of untested rape kits sitting in a warehouse at the Detroit Police Department that had been used as an overflow storage facility for evidence. An investigation eventually determined that Worthy had been sitting on more than 11,000 rape test kits — some of which had been sitting unprocessed for more than a decade or more, including one 2002 rape linked to a man who was incarcerated for three murders he committed in the seven years after the rape.

   Kym Worthy's ugly mug above absolutely turns my stomach for ignoring so many real rape victims while pursuing charges against Cleaves.

   I hope Judge Hayman sends a strong message to her by reaffirming Judge Dowd's decision.


​Mike Killbreath hosts The Morning Gazette Radio Show live weekdays from 8 am until 9:30 am on CCNRadio.net and hosts The Daily Gazette Sports Weekend Show every Saturday from 10 am until 1 pm as well as The Daily Gazette Sports Night Show weeknights at 6 pm.

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