Defense in agent scandal sees evidence in state's case
Posted December 17, 2013
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — Prosecutors have provided about 40,000 pages in investigative records to attorneys for five people charged with violating the state's sports agent law by providing benefits to former Tar Heel football players in 2010.
During a brief court hearing Tuesday, Orange County district attorney Jim Woodall said prosecutors will provide more records by Feb. 1 to attorneys for the defendants — which include a Georgia-based sports agent and a former UNC tutor.
The next hearing is set for April 29 due to the volume of files, which prosecutors provided on a computer hard disk and 23 CDs in a small white box. Bill Young, who represents one of the defendants, called the amount of discovery files "at the moment, overwhelming."
After the hearing, the attorney for charged ex-tutor Jennifer Wiley Thompson said she has lost at least three teaching jobs due to the investigation and said she's never been an agent or runner.
"Nobody in this entire situation has suffered more than Jennifer Wiley Thompson," Raleigh-based attorney Joseph B. Cheshire V said. "I mean she has been the face of this entire investigation, and she's simply a young woman who was a tutor who tried to help people, and then made friends with those people and continued to try to help them.
"She's never been an agent for anybody. She's never been paid to be an agent for anybody. She's never been paid to try to funnel players to particular agents. But she just continues to be the face of the story. And I find it really, really tragic for her."
Thompson is charged with four counts of providing benefits to former UNC football player Greg Little to help agent Terry Watson to sign Little. A grand jury returned indictments on Sept. 30 against Thompson, Watson, longtime Watson associate Patrick Jones, Watson employee Willie Barley and longtime Little friend Michael Johnson.
Cheshire and the other attorneys have also questioned the validity of the law, which governs how agents can interact with athletes in the state. He told the judge Tuesday that the law essentially helps a private entity – the NCAA – to control amateur athletes.
Watson was charged with 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. Watson also faces one count of obstruction for not providing records sought by authorities.
"We'll roll up our sleeves and get to work," said Watson's attorney Russell Babb. "There's going to be additional discovery in this case."
Jones was charged with providing $725 to Quinn through a third party on Watson's behalf. Barley faces four charges for providing Quinn $1,525.74 in benefits for a trip to Miami in May 2010.
Johnson — then a college quarterback at nearby North Carolina Central University and a current employee of Rosenhaus Sports Representation — faces three charges for providing a location for Watson to meet with Little and provide him with $5,000 in May 2010, as well as providing Watson a location to send packages containing $100 for Little in May and June of that year.
"He was Greg [Little]'s best friend, and lifelong friend since age five, 40-thousand pieces of paper will now tell us why he's been indicted as a felon by the state of N.C.," said Johnson's attorney Bill Young. "He's still shocked and surprised he's involved in this."
None of the five defendants appeared in court Tuesday.
The charges came after more than three years of investigation by the North Carolina Secretary of State's office, which launched its probe shortly after the NCAA began investigating improper benefits and academic misconduct within the Tar Heels football program in summer 2010.
Violating the state's Uniform Athlete Agent Act is a low-level felony and Woodall has said anyone convicted would get probation if they didn't have a criminal record.
Woodall said it remains unclear exactly when the cases could go to trial, though he said the timeline could become clearer by the April hearing. Cheshire said he thought it could take a year "before anybody could possibly be ready to try this case."
"It's the lowest level felony, but a felony's a felony," Cheshire said. "In the world of America today, no one forgives anything. If you're a convicted felon, you might as well be thrown on the trash heap of the world. So in that sense it's enormously important."