Orange County District Attorney James Woodall ’82 (AB, ’85 JD) has dropped 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.
On June 24, Woodall had 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 that week, as previously scheduled, and that no decision on whether to drop the case would come before the following week. On July 3, according to a report from The News & Observer, Woodall’s office announced the charge was being dismissed.
“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 had told The News & Observer earlier. “I believe what he has done to help with the investigation is simply more important than putting a man on probation. 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.”
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 had been 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 on June 20 that he expected the investigation to be wrapped up this fall. Ten days later, the NCAA said it was reopening its 2011 examination of academic irregularities and their relationship to athletics. That move came after the NCAA said it had determined “that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.” Wainstein has been conveying his investigation’s findings to the NCAA.
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.