RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A prosecutor has dropped charges against a former UNC tutor who worked with Tar Heels football players for violating the state’s sports agent laws.
Orange County district attorney Jim Woodall said Thursday he dropped the four counts against Jennifer Thompson because she is cooperating with the investigation. A grand jury indicted her a year ago for providing benefits to former UNC football player Greg Little in 2010 to help Georgia-based agent Terry Watson sign Little.
Woodall said Thompson, formerly Jennifer Wiley, began talking with investigators from the Secretary of State’s office this summer and met with him in August.
“Based on all that, I feel like she is being very truthful and that she is more important to us as a potential witness than as a defendant,” Woodall said.
In a statement, Thompson’s attorney Joseph B. Cheshire V said his client committed no crime and that Woodall was “doing the right thing” by dismissing the charges.
“Mrs. Thompson has suffered too much over the last four years and hopefully can now begin to put all of this behind her,” Cheshire said.
Thompson and Watson were among five people indicted in September 2013 in the case. The grand jury said Thompson had provided Little with airline tickets for himself and a friend. It also said she provided him $150 and received a package from Watson containing $2,000 in cash for Little and “facilitated the delivery of that money,” according to the indictment.
The state’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act requires agents to register with the Secretary of State’s office and is designed to shield athletes from sports agents who would offer gifts to entice them to sign representation contracts.
Each count of “athlete-agent inducement” was a low-level Class I felony. While each count carried a maximum prison sentence of 15 months along with civil penalties of up to $25,000, Woodall has said that anyone who doesn’t have a criminal record must be put on probation if they plead guilty or are convicted of a Class I felony.
Watson faces 13 counts of providing cash or travel accommodations to Little, Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn valued at nearly $24,000 in an effort to sign them. He also faces one count of obstruction for not providing records sought by authorities.
Two of Watson’s associates and a former college football player who is a friend of Little’s have also been charged in the case. The next court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 14.
The Secretary of State’s office launched its probe shortly after the NCAA started looking into improper benefits and academic misconduct within the program in summer 2010. Thompson was connected to several academic violations in that probe and had declined to speak with investigators in either investigation previously.
Woodall said Thompson has also met with former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein, who is conducting an independent probe into the fraud in the school’s formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department that included no-show classes with significant athlete enrollments.
The NCAA in June said it was reopening its 2011 investigation into academic misconduct at the school. It sanctioned the football program in March 2012.