CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) --Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Thursday he has agreed to drop a charge against former UNC-Chapel Hill African studies chairman Julius Nyang'oro in exchange for his cooperation in the ongoing investigation of an academic scandal at the school.
After an SBI investigation, Nyang'oro was indicted by an Orange County grand jury in December on a charge of obtaining property by false pretenses. At the time, Woodall alleged Nyang'oro took $12,000 for a class he did not teach.
The African and Afro-American Studies program has been at the center of an investigation into alleged academic fraud involving Tar Heel football and basketball players.
A UNC review of classes within the department found 54 department classes that had little or no indication of instruction along with at least 10 cases of unauthorized grade changes for students who did not do all the work.
The classes were popular with athletes. They made up about 45 percent of enrollments. Nyang'oro stepped down from his chairmanship shortly after UNC began investigating the classes in 2011. He retired in 2012.
Nyang'oro has cooperated with both the SBI investigation and a new investigation that UNC requested Ken Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, lead. The NCAA announced Monday that it has reopened its 2011 investigation of academic irregularities at the school involving student athletes that led to sanctions - including a one-year postseason ban for the football program, a reduction of 15 football scholarships, vacation of records, and three years' probation.
Nyang'oro has been interviewed by Wainstein's team four times. His attorney - Butch Williams - told ABC11 Thursday that he is pleased the indictment has been dismissed.
"Dr. Julius Nyang'oro is a decent and honorable man who has consistently denied committing criminal conduct in connection with this case," he said. "We believe the issues raised in connection with this case are best handled in the university setting. Dr. Nuang'oro has voluntarily and fully cooperated with the independent investigation being conducted into academic irregularities at the University of North Carolina and will continue to assist in that investigation."
While the NCAA's 2011 investigation focused primarily on the football program, in an exchange last month, former North Carolina basketball star Rashad McCants went back and forth with Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams about his educational experience as a player athlete.
McCants said his tutors wrote his term papers, that he rarely went to class for about half his time at UNC, and he remained able to play largely because he took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible.
Several days later, Williams told ESPN that he was in "shock" and "disbelief" over the McCants allegations, saying the experiences McCants shared did not match what he knows about his players' academic efforts and records and the basketball program he oversees.
But McCants, in a second appearance on ESPN's "Outside the Lines," stood by his allegations and called on all former players from 2004-05 to release their academic transcripts, which would show whether they too took bogus classes within the school's African-American studies program.
A copy of McCants' university transcript, labeled "unofficial" and obtained by "Outside the Lines," shows that in his non-African-American studies classes, McCants received six C's, one D and three F's. In his African-American studies classes -- many of which are referred to as "paper classes" because students did not have to attend them -- his grades were 10 A's, six B's, one C and one D.
While not addressing McCants' allegations specifically, Wainstein appeared at a UNC Board of Governors meeting in June and said that the "paper classes" are part of the focus of his investigation.
Wainstein said he is looking at what went into the classes, how they were designed, how they deviated from school norms, why they were created and by whom. He said he will determine if any school administrators were involved.
Wainstein said he will see if students actually wrote papers, if they got assistance, and if passing grades were given for no work.
He said he's looking at if the athletics department was involved and if it steered student athletes into the classes.
Wainstein told the board that his team has interviewed 80 potential witnesses and reviewed 1.5 million emails and other electronic documents. It has also gone through thousands of student records and transcripts. Wainstein, a partner with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, did not give specifics or any factual findings - saying he would present a full written report this fall that will be made public.
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