DA drops charge against ex-UNC professor
District Attorney Jim Woodall on Thursday dismissed a charge of obtaining property by false pretenses against Julius Nyang’oro, former head of the UNC Department of African and Afro-American Studies.
The charge was filed following a State Bureau of Investigation inquiry into academic improprieties in that department.
“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 press release Thursday afternoon.
Woodall said Nyang’oro has also agreed to “cooperate fully and completely with the independent (non-criminal) investigation being conducted by Kenneth Wainstein (a former federal prosecutor) into athletic and academic issues” at UNC Chapel Hill.
Wainstein was hired in February to conduct an inquiry into the relationship between the African-American department and student-athletes. He and his staff have interviewed Nyang’oro “on several occasions” and he agreed to continue cooperating, Woodall said.
Nyang’oro’s attorneys, Bill Thomas and Butch Williams, said they were pleased by Woodall’s dismissal.
“Dr. Nyang’oro is a decent and honorable man who has consistently denied committing criminal conduct in connection with this case,” the attorneys said in a statement. “We believe the issues raised in connection with this case are best handled in the university setting.”
They added that Nyang’oro “has voluntarily and fully cooperated” with the independent investigation and will continue to do so.
The investigation involved allegations that Nyang’oro collected $12,000 for a summer school lecture course in 2011 that he never taught.
Nyang’oro, 59, of Durham, was indicted by an Orange County grand jury in December on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretenses. He resigned as chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, which is at the center of an investigation into academic fraud involving UNC football players.
Deborah Crowder, Nyang’oro’s department manager at the time, had also been a target of the investigation for her role in handling academic records tied to the classes. But Woodall agreed in March not to seek an indictment against her, and she agreed to cooperate with Wainstein’s investigation.
UNC recouped the $12,000 Nyang’oro was paid for the summer course.
Former Gov. Jim Martin, in a 2012 inquiry, found problems in more than 200 African studies courses dating to the mid-1990s. They included unauthorized grade changes, forged signatures on grade rolls and poor oversight.
Wainstein’s inquiry aims to find out how the academic fraud happened. Problems included lecture classes with large athlete enrollments that didn’t meet and were treated as independent studies requiring only a research paper.
Two years ago, a UNC review reported that academic advisers referred athletes to enroll in those classes.
In addition, former UNC basketball player Rashad McCants said in June that he was able to stay academically eligible because of African studies courses he didn’t attend. He alleged that tutors wrote papers for him and other players, and claimed that Coach Roy Williams knew what he and other players were doing.
Williams and other players from the 2005 title team denied involvement in academic misdeeds.