While the investigation from Kenneth Wainstein grinds on in hopes of a final report released this fall, the Orange County district attorney appears to be moving away from bringing criminal charges against the principal players in the scandal. On Monday, DA Jim Woodall told the News and Observer that former AFAM department head Julius Nyang'oro's cooperation with the Wainstein probe could lead to the fraud charges against him being dropped.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Monday that he is giving "serious consideration" to dropping a felony criminal fraud charge against the former department chairman at the center of a long-running academic scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Woodall said Julius Nyang’oro’s cooperation with a new probe led by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein has so far shown to be truthful and fruitful. Wainstein was hired by UNC-CH and the UNC system in February to try to get to the bottom of the scandal involving lecture-style classes that never met. The scandal goes back at least as far as the mid-1990s.
"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 said. "So I am going to seriously consider dismissing his charge based on his cooperation."
Everything I know about the legal system I learned from Law & Order so that this for what it's worth.
I am going to assume Wainstein asked Woodall if there was wiggle room on dropping the charges so he could have a carrot to dangle to get Nyang'oro's cooperation. Woodall, who should be going after actual criminals and not wasting taxpayer money on convicting a guy for $12,000 that has been paid back, is probably happy to oblige.
Woodall's willingness to move away from UNC's scandal doesn't just stop with Nyang'oro. WTVD's Derek Rowles tweeted that it appears he is ready to drop some of the charges connected to agent activity at UNC.
#UNC Investigation: Multiple sources say some criminal charges in athlete-inducement cases could be dismissed along with Nyang'oro fraud.— Derek Rowles (@DerekRowles) June 23, 2014
What does this all mean for UNC and the Wainstein report?
Assuming the charges against Nyang'oro and others are indeed dropped, it means no trials and no public testimony that could reveal more embarassing information. It also saves UNC administrators from being called to testified and asked under oath about their knowledge of the AFAM scandal and who knows what else. This will be disappointing for Business Week's Paul Barrett who swore the Nyang'oro trial was going to pull back the curtain on some grand conspiracy.
Nyang'oro talking to Wainstein is also a positive in the regards to the validity and public acceptance of the final report. It can't be called a "whitewash" if Wainstein talks to the principals involved and gets them to answer questions regarding their motives or if a connection with the athletic department existed. In that sense UNC will finally get some closure on AFAM. That being said, if Nyang'oro knows where the bodies are buried or other damaging information it could create additional headaches for UNC. Still, the only way this ends if the cards are put on the table despite the fact UNC has already instituted reforms and shown the door to many of the people involved.
The bottom line is this news points to everything about the scandal being funneled into Wainstein's final report which should serve as the last word on this matter.