The verdict by the jury in Flint, Cleaves’ hometown, came nearly four years after a 24-year-old woman accused Cleaves of sexually assaulting her in a Flint-area motel room.
She testified that she wanted to leave but that Cleaves, 41, continued to force himself on her.
Cleaves didn’t testify, but his attorney contended that the woman was in the motel room “of her own free will.”
In his opening statement in Cleaves’ trial in Genesee County Circuit Court, defense attorney Frank Manley said alleged consensual sex between two adults is not a crime. His brother, Michael Manley, said the woman lied because she felt bad about cheating on her boyfriend.
That emotion, you can’t fake that. I did nothing wrong. I prayed every day that the truth would come out.
The panel of nine women and three men received the case Tuesday afternoon after attorneys delivered closing arguments.
Cleaves broke down in tears as the decision was read, Detroit’s Fox 2 reported.
“That emotion, you can’t fake that,” Cleaves said. “I did nothing wrong. I prayed every day that the truth would come out.”
“I just thank God, I’ve been waiting for this day for four years,” Cleaves said to a crowd outside the courtroom. “The Manley brothers are lifesavers, to save my life, the way they did.”
Cleaves was charged with unlawful imprisonment, assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration and other charges. He was facing up to 15 years in prison.
Cleaves led Michigan State to the NCAA basketball championship in 2000 and played for four NBA teams.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.