Five years after UNC-Chapel Hill football player Marvin Austin sent out a tweet that launched investigation after investigation into the university’s college sports program, state investigators have arrested a former UNC player and accused him of violating North Carolina’s sports agent laws.
Christopher Jamel Hawkins, a former Tar Heel cornerback who was kicked off the team in 2004 for unspecified reasons, was in the Orange County jail on Tuesday for the first of a series of court hearings likely to be held in his case.
Hawkins, arrested Monday at the home of a retired NFL player, faces two charges of trying to induce former Tar Heels defensive end Robert Quinn to sign a contract with him in 2010 by giving Quinn $13,700 in cash, and by helping him sell game-used equipment for $1,700.
Quinn is now a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams.
Hawkins also is charged with intentionally initiating contact with former UNC defensive back Jabari Price in 2013, through Instagram, without being a registered agent, and of intentionally failing to register as a sports agent.
Bond, initially set at $500,000, was lowered to $300,000 during a closed-circuit hearing from the jail with Judge Beverly Scarlett.
Hawkins, who has served two of the nine years of probation he received in Georgia for a drug offense, also faces a recent assault charge in North Carolina. Prosecutors described him as a flight risk because of periods lasting months in which he had no contact with his probation officer.
Jeff Nieman, an assistant Orange County district attorney, told the judge that the Durham probation officer assigned to Hawkins said he was “not stable in terms of his living situation.” He had been living with a sister, Nieman said, but then was found by arresting officers at the home of retired Pittsburgh Steeler Willie Parker, who played at UNC and who now lives in the area.
At the closed-circuit hearing, Hawkins asked the judge when he could have another bond-reduction hearing. His next court date is scheduled for Monday.
In a statement released Tuesday, Kevin Best, a spokesman for the UNC football team, said Price alerted the program immediately in the fall of 2013 after contact he considered questionable.
“The department promptly alerted the Secretary of State’s office and it continues to support state authorities on the matter,” Best said in the statement. “We thank Mr. Price for providing information about potential violations of our policies.”
After Quinn was declared ineligible at UNC in November 2010, the program “disassociated” itself from Quinn, according to Best.
North Carolina agent rules
NCAA rules allow agents to meet with college athletes but forbid the students from entering into contracts, verbal or written, while still eligible to play. Players cannot accept meals, gifts, transportation or other incentives to sign contracts later.
But NCAA regulations govern the athletes and schools, not the agents.
Under North Carolina law, sports agents are required to register with the secretary of state’s office and are prohibited from providing cash and other benefits to student athletes.
In addition to mandatory registration, the law requires agents to notify schools immediately when they sign college athletes. The students are given 14 days to change their minds and cancel contracts, and schools have the legal right to sue agents who violate the law – though that option is rarely exercised. Agents who fail to comply can be punished with civil or criminal penalties.
The arrest Monday is one in a series that have stemmed from a protracted investigation into the UNC football team.
The inquiry began in 2010 after the NCAA started looking into allegations that players with the North Carolina football program had taken improper benefits from sports agents.
In March 2012, the NCAA issued infractions against the UNC football program, including three years of probation and a ban on postseason play that year.
The office of the North Carolina Secretary of State, tasked with regulating sports agents in the state, continued its probe into the improper benefits.
In September 2013, five people were indicted in cases that could test the teeth of the state’s law.
Terry Watson, a Georgia-based agent, faces 14 felony counts in Orange County – 13 for athlete-agent inducement and one of obstructing justice. He is said to have provided nearly $24,000 to former UNC football players Greg Little, Marvin Austin and Quinn to get them to sign with his agency.
Patrick Jones, a Georgia-based real estate agent and longtime associate of Watson, is accused of providing money to Quinn through a third party.
Michael Wayne Johnson Jr., a former N.C. Central University quarterback and a friend of Little, faces accusations of athlete-agent inducement, too.
In October 2014, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall dropped the charge against Jennifer Wiley Thompson, a former UNC tutor initially charged in the case.
Quinn, Austin and Little had no UNC playing time in 2010, while the investigations were underway. Each was selected in the NFL draft the next spring. At No. 14, Quinn went the highest in the draft.
A search warrant unsealed in Wake County on Tuesday related to the charges against Hawkins offers more details about the accusations.
In July 2014, Special Agent A.H. Jones outlined key points from a long-running investigation in a request for a search warrant for access to Hawins’ Instagram account under the user name “thaincrediblehawk.”
By then, UNC had issued a “letter of disassociation” to Hawkins, banning him from athletics facilities and prohibiting his access to any of the school’s athletes.
Investigators contend Hawkins had a habit of contacting student-athletes through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, attempting to recruit them.
In one example submitted in the search warrant application, Jones cited an Instagram message to Jabari Price, the UNC back who now plays with the Minnesota Vikings but was still considered college eligible at the time of the social media contact.
“Season over... Can we talk about representation” was what Hawkins sent, investigators say.
In an attempt to move Quinn toward several agents, investigators say an interview with the player revealed, Hawkins gave the player more than $13,700 in cash.
Investigators also contend that Quinn told them Marty Blazer, described as an agent in court documents, wired him money through Western Union that he picked up at a grocery store in Chapel Hill using the name of the girlfriend of another football player’s roommate.
Some of that information, according to Jones’ search warrant application statement, was included in court documents that were part of a lawsuit filed by another agent. Quinn initially signed with that agent, then fired him right before signing with the St. Louis Rams.
In that document, according to Jones, Hawkins acknowledged “loaning Quinn” about $16,000.