Orange County District Attorney James Woodall ’82 (AB, ’85 JD) is considering dropping the criminal charge against Julius Nyang’oro because of Nyang’oro’s cooperation with the current investigation into academic fraud at UNC, including in the department Nyang’oro once chaired.
Woodall on Tuesday confirmed a news report that Nyang’oro’s cooperation with independent counsel Kenneth Wainstein has been “truthful and fruitful.” Woodall told the Carolina Alumni Review that Nyang’oro’s case would not come before the court this week, as previously scheduled, and that no decision on whether to drop the case would come before next week.
“It appears that Nyang’oro has cooperated fully with them and actually, I think, maybe gone over and above what was expected from him,” Woodall told The News & Observer of Raleigh. “So I am going to seriously consider dismissing his charge based on his cooperation.”
As head of the former department of African and Afro-American studies, Nyang’oro has been implicated in multiple investigations for a system of classes, going back to about 1997, that have been determined to be academically fraudulent. Some of the classes required a term paper but never met with a professor. The University is looking into allegations that the AFAM department and the athletics department cooperated on the classes, possibly to help athletes maintain their academic eligibility.
Nyang’oro is charged with obtaining property by false pretenses, a felony, for allegedly having accepted $12,000 for a summer school class he did not teach.
At the time he was indicted last December, he declared his innocence and said he would explain his side of the long-running story in court. Other than that, he never has spoken publicly about the matter.
Wainstein and two assistants have interviewed more than 80 people, examined some 1.5 million emails and other electronic documents, and looked at thousands of student records, including transcripts over the last four months. Wainstein said last week he expects the investigation to be wrapped up this fall.
Woodall further told the newspaper that Nyang’oro’s cooperation could be pivotal to Wainstein’s probe. Even if convicted, Nyang’oro was unlikely to go to jail.
“I believe what he has done to help with the investigation is simply more important than putting a man on probation,” Woodall said. “I think he has provided Wainstein with what he considers real critical information in his investigation that he could not get from anybody else in a case where, frankly, the money’s been paid back.”
Nyang’oro was the department’s first and only chair until he resigned as chair under pressure in August 2011. He retired on July 1, 2012. Later that year, the department was renamed African, African-American and diaspora studies.