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Fraud charge dropped against UNC's Nyang'oro

Posted July 3, 2014

The fraud charge against former head of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of African and Afro-American Studies, Dr. Julius Nyang’oro, has been dropped, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Thursday.

Woodall dismissed the charge due to Nyang’oro’s cooperation with an investigation at the university. 

"Julius Nyang’oro has cooperated with the SBI criminal investigation and has agreed to continue cooperating with the district attorney’s office," Woodall said in a statement Thursday. "Nyang’oro has also agreed to cooperate fully and completely with the independent (non-criminal) investigation being conducted by Kenneth Wainstein into athletic and academic issues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill."

Woodall said Nyang’oro has provided "invaluable information that they could have gotten from no other source" to Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor hired by the university in February. Wainstein has interviewed Nyang’oro "four times, for many, many hours," Woodall told WRAL.

"He has met with us on multiple occasions, he has answered all of our questions regarding the academic and athletic dimensions of the irregular courses offered in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, and he has provided important insights and information we would otherwise not have received," Wainstein said in a statement Thursday. "In sum, his cooperation has contributed significantly to the progress that our investigation has made to date."

A grand jury indicted Nyang'oro, 59, of 9 Wickersham Drive in Durham, on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretense. Investigators say he accepted $12,000 for teaching a summer school course in 2011, but no lectures were ever held. Nyang'oro pleaded not guilty to the fraud charge in December and was released on a $30,000 bond.

Nyang'oro's attorneys, Butch Williams and Bill Thomas, said Thursday they were pleased to learn of the indictment had been dismissed and "believe the issues raised in connection with this case are best handled in the university setting." They said their client will continue to assist in that investigation.

"If other information becomes available, that some crimes were committed, we’ll look into that," Woodall told WRAL. "I felt it was more important to get to the bottom of the overall academic scandal versus pursuing a single criminal charge against a man who didn’t have a record, who, if convicted would’ve been put on probation, the money was already paid back."

Nyang'oro resigned in August as chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, which was at the center of an investigation into academic fraud involving Tar Heel football players. Since that time, Rashad McCants, a former Tar Heel basketball player, made claims that he, too, was registered for classes he never attended and had papers written for him.

The NCAA Monday reopened its 2011 investigation into academic irregularities at the university. The NCAA said in a statement that they had determined that additional people with information and others who had previously been uncooperative may now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.

Mary Willingham, the whistle-blower academic adviser at UNC who claims that the university put player eligibility above academic integrity for years, filed a civil suit against the school Monday claiming that UNC retaliated against her for speaking about the academic performance of revenue-sport athletes.

The lawsuit claimed that Willingham has "incurred and sustained harms, losses and other damages" as a "direct and proximate result of UNC's acts of reprisal" against her. Willingham, who resigned her position at the end of the 2014 spring semester, is seeking damages in excess of $10,000 and court costs.

In a public appearance Tuesday afternoon, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said she respected the right of Willingham, or any employee, to question her work environment and that the university will follow through as appropriate.

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  • Edward Levy Jul 3, 2014

    another plea deal!