WJTV News Channel 12 - Former UNC tutor indicted, arrives at Orange Co. courthouse

Former UNC tutor indicted, arrives at Orange Co. courthouse

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Jennifer Lauren Thompson Jennifer Lauren Thompson
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. -

The former tutor for University of North Carolina football players made her first appearance in an Orange County courthouse Thursday afternoon, marking the beginning of what could be a long fight over whether she broke the law in a new effort by the state to regulate sports agents and collegiate athletes.

Jennifer Wiley Thompson, who was Jennifer Wiley at UNC before getting married, is charged with trying to induce Tar Heel football player Greg Little into signing with an agent. She appeared at the Orange County Courthouse before a heavy media contingent.

She paid a $15,000 bond.

The day marked the first public appearance for Thompson, who refused to speak to NCAA officials and who has made no public comments on the matter. Her her next appearance is Oct. 15.

The charges against her will test a North Carolina law, the Uniform Athletes Agents Act, designed to force agents to register with the Secretary of State's office and to punish sports agents who tamper with collegiate athletes in the state. Violations are a Class I felony.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he believes this is the first case of its kind in the nation.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he believes this is the first time a charge of this nature has been brought nationally.

But Thompson's attorney, Elliot Sol Abrams of Raleigh, said it's not clear to him and fellow attorney Joe Cheshire, who will usually represent Thompson, that she broke any law.

"What we all need to recognize is that this is new territory for everyone involved," Abrams said. "No one has ever been charged with this crime. We would ask that everyone keep an open mind until this matter has concluded in a court of law."

Abrams said, "This has been a long, sad road for Jennifer. She is a wonderful, caring person. She'll continue to act with decency. She'll maintain her dignity throughout this process."

Thompson is charged with providing Little with a round-trip airline ticket worth $579.50 to travel from North Carolina to Florida as part of an effort to get Little to sign with agent Terry Watson of Georgia. She is also charged with giving him $150 in cash and receiving a package from Watson containing $2,000 in cash for Little.

The indictment, which was made public Thursday, said the ticket was provided May 23, 2010. It lists Thompson as now living in Matthews and is dated Sept. 30.

Woodall said she face four felony charges, which each carry a 15-month sentence.

"I always feel like it's important when we feel there has been a violation of the law to get to the bottom of it. I will say the Secretary of State's office did a, I think, good job of pursuing this because one of the people that they looked at originally passed away, unfortunately, well over a year ago," Woodall said, referring to deceased sports agent Gary Wichard. "They were well into this investigation when that person passed away and then they had to go in a different direction. I think they've been very dogged, very determined, to get to the bottom of this. And now, it's going to move into the court system and we're just going to see where it goes."

Thompson emerged as a key figure in the UNC football investigation but refused to talk to NCAA officials. She had even been the tutor for the son of former Carolina head coach Butch Davis.

Recently, search warrants were made public that show Little claimed Watson provided cash and other benefits.

The law requires agents to register with the Secretary of State's office and prohibits offering gifts to entice athletes to sign representation contracts.

In July of 2012, documents released by UNC pointed to Thompson as a key source of problems at the program.

In UNC's "Response to Notice of Allegations," Carolina said it learned in July 2010 that Thompson "provided impermissible help in the form of free tutoring services to several football student-athletes … [information redacted].

"The University specifically instructed her that she should not tutor or provide benefits of any type to any student-athlete. [Thompson] did not follow these instructions.

"Upon this discovery, the university expanded its 2010 investigation of [Thompson's] conduct to include sports other than football …

"[Thompson] did not write papers for the student-athletes … She did, however, edit papers the student-athletes sent her -- correcting spelling and grammar mistakes and adding a few sentences."

The university went on to say Thompson was at fault in her dealings with some of the athletes.

"[Thompson] … knew or should have known that the assistance she provided, though limited in [Thompson's] violations, while admittedly serious and major in nature, were limited to football student-athletes."

In another part of the response, UNC acknowledges reports that Thompson provided "approximately $3,500 impermissible extra benefits to football student-athletes."

The report defined those benefits as $150 for an airline ticket and $1,789 in parking ticket expenses. Thompson also provided 142 hours of free tutoring services to nine football players during the 2009-10 school year.

Carolina said Thompson "used a personal credit card" to make an online payment of $1,789 that [name redacted] owed."

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