HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (AP) – A sports agent’s employee and a former college football player are charged with violating North Carolina’s agent law, making them the fourth and fifth people facing criminal charges for providing benefits to Tar Heels football players in 2010.
Willie James Barley Jr. and Michael Wayne Johnson Jr. are charged with facilitating Georgia-based agent Terry Watson’s efforts to sign Robert Quinn and Greg Little – both now in the NFL – in violation of the law.
They are the last of the five to appear in court after being indicted by an Orange County grand jury on Sept. 30. Those indictments came after testimony from an investigator with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office after a three-year investigation and were immediately placed under seal.
Indictments against Watson, his longtime associate and a former UNC tutor were unsealed last month.
“I don’t anticipate any more indictments at this time,” Orange County district attorney Jim Woodall said after Johnson’s court appearance Wednesday afternoon.
Barley is listed on an arrest order as Watson’s employee, while Johnson is Little’s friend and was the starting quarterback at North Carolina Central at the time. Johnson and Little – now a receiver with the Cleveland Browns – played together at Hillside High School in Durham.
Johnson, 25, faces three counts of athlete agent inducement, including providing a location for Watson to meet with Little and provide him with $5,000 in May 2010. He also provided Watson a location to send a package containing $100 for Little in May and June of that year, according to indictments unsealed Wednesday.
William D. Young IV, Johnson’s Raleigh-based attorney, said his “shocked” client was never anything more than “an extraordinary student-athlete and dedicated lifelong friend of Greg’s” with no relationship to Watson.
“My view of this statute is it’s designed to protect any student-athlete from the grips of an agent – period,” Young said.
Woodall said Johnson was arrested Friday in Florida, then released on a promise to return to court.
“We’re not alleging that (Johnson) was being induced to sign a contract,” Woodall said. “And therefore I don’t think they’re protected under the statute.”
Barley, 29, of North Chesterfield, Va., faces four inducement charges by providing Quinn with benefits of $1,525.74 for a trip the eventual NFL first-round draft pick took to Miami in May 2010. That included $750 to purchase two roundtrip airline tickets, a hotel room valued at $675.74 and $100 in cash in addition to the use of a car for two days, according to indictments.
Barley was arrested late last week, appeared in court Friday and released on $30,000 bond.
The state’s Uniform Athletes 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. Prosecution is left to district attorneys in locations where violations are alleged to have occurred.
It is a Class I felony to violate the law, meaning a maximum prison sentence of 15 months, and violations also could carry civil penalties of up to $25,000. Woodall has said anyone without a criminal record must receive probation if convicted of a Class I felony.
Former tutor Jennifer Wiley Thompson was the first to appear on Oct. 3 on four counts of providing benefits to Little to help Watson sign the former Tar Heels receiver.
Thompson paid for airline tickets for Little and Johnson to go to Miami in May 2010, with Little telling investigators he reimbursed Thompson with money provided by Watson, according to a probable cause affidavit in a June search warrant.
Watson was charged with 13 counts of providing cash or travel accommodations to Little, Quinn and Marvin Austin valued at nearly $24,000. He also faces one count of obstruction of justice for not providing records sought by authorities.
Watson’s friend, Patrick Mitchell Jones, of Cartersville, Ga., is charged with providing $725 to Quinn and also appeared in court last month.
Quinn, Little and Austin were either dismissed from the team or declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits and didn’t play during the 2010 season. Quinn plays for the St. Louis Rams, while Austin was a second-round pick of the New York Giants in 2011 and also spent time with Miami and Dallas this season.
The next hearing for all five defendants is scheduled for Dec. 17.