Former NCCU quarterback scores felony charges
Former N.C. Central and Hillside High School quarterback Michael Johnson has been charged with breaking state law for his role in the UNC-Chapel Hill football scandal.
Johnson, 25, faces three felony counts for facilitating payments from sports agent Terry Watson to then-UNC wide receiver Greg Little in 2010 in violation of the North Carolina Uniform Athlete Agents Act, which prohibits giving money to college athletes in order to get them to sign with agents.
Johnson allegedly provided a location for Watson to give Little approximately $5,000 in May 2010, when Johnson was still the quarterback at NCCU. He also is accused of twice providing Watson with a location to send a package containing $100 to Little, according to indictments unsealed on Wednesday.
Little and Johnson were teammates at Hillside and are “life-long friends,” according to Johnson’s attorney, Bill Young.
“During any of the times that I’ve seen in the unsealed indictments, all in 2010, (Johnson) was never anything other than a star quarterback at N.C. Central University,” Young said. “Not associated with or affiliated with or working for any agency at all.”
Young questioned why his client would be charged when the statute was meant to guard players from agents.
“My view of this so far is that Michael is the picture of the person that this statute was designed to protect, not to prosecute,” Young said. “My view of this statute is it’s designed to protect any student-athlete from the grips of an agent, period.”
However, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said that the statute was only meant to protect athletes from being induced into signing contracts, which doesn’t apply to Johnson.
“We’re not alleging that this person was being induced to sign a contract, and therefore I don’t think they’re protected under the statute,” Woodall said.
Johnson was arrested in Florida on Friday on a fugitive warrant and made his first appearance at the Orange County Courthouse on Wednesday. Johnson was recently one of five employees listed on the official website for Rosenhaus Sports Representation, who signed Little in 2011, but his name no longer appears on the staff listing.
Willie Barley also was indicted for violating the state’s sports agent laws and appeared in court last Friday. He is accused of providing former UNC defensive end Robert Quinn with $750 in airline tickets, a $675 hotel room, $100 cash and the use of a car for two days in 2010 in an effort to get Quinn to sign with Watson.
Little and Quinn were both declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA for accepting impermissible benefits and are now in the NFL.
Johnson and Barley face charges of athlete agent inducement, a low-level felony. Defendants without a criminal record must be given probation if found guilty, though the penalties include civil fines of up to $25,000.
Watson, Georgia real estate agent Patrick Jones and former UNC academic tutor Jennifer Thompson previously had been charged in the case. Watson was indicted on 13 counts of athlete agent inducement for offering almost $24,000 to three Tar Heel football players. Thompson faces four counts for funneling $3,309 from Watson to Little and Jones was charged with one count for providing $725 to Quinn.
All five defendants are set to appear in Superior Court on Dec. 17. Woodall said he didn’t anticipate any more indictments “at this time.”
The allegations stem from a three-year investigation by the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, which oversees interactions between sports agents and college athletes.