NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — While Manti Te’o thought he was talking with girlfriend “Lennay Kekua” for hours on end, he was actually on the phone with his male hoaxer, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s lawyer told the New York Daily News.
Te’o “thought it was a female he was talking with,” Tuiasosopo’s lawyer, Milton Grimes, told the Daily News. “It was Ronaiah as Lennay.”READ MORE: David Gilbert, Man Convicted In Deadly 1981 Bank Heist In Rockland County, Granted Parole
Grimes said Tuiasosopo didn’t pull the falsetto prank “to make fun” of the Notre Dame linebacker.
“It was establishing a communication with someone,” he told the paper. “It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.”
Te’o admitted to Katie Couric he answered questions about his “dead,” online girlfriend even after he received a call Dec. 6 from someone posing as the fake person.
Te’o also maintained he played no part in the hoax.
Pressed by Couric to admit that he was in on the deception, the All-American said he was convinced the woman he knew as Lennay Kekua died in September. Te’o claims he never met Kekua in person but developed a serious relationship with her through phone calls and electronic messages.
“Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12,” Te’o said in an interview to air Thursday on Couric’s syndicated talk show. A segment of the interview with Te’o and his parents was broadcast Wednesday on “Good Morning America.”
“Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?” Te’o said.
The Heisman Trophy finalists made at least three references to his girlfriend in media interviews after Dec. 6, including during ESPN’s Heisman presentation show on Dec. 8.
Te’o’s father defended his son when Couric pointed out that many people don’t believe the Irish star, suspecting he used the situation for personal gain.READ MORE: What's Causing Record Flooding? Experts Say Missing, Dying Trees Are One Reason
“People can speculate about what they think he is. I’ve known him 21 years of his life. And he’s not a liar. He’s a kid,” Brian Te’o said with tears in his eyes.
On Tuesday, the woman whose photo was used as the “face” of the Twitter account of Te’o’s supposed girlfriend says the man allegedly behind the hoax confessed and apologized to her.
Diane O’Meara told NBC’s “Today” show that Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating a fake woman called Lennay Kekua.
Te’o told ESPN last week that Tuiasosopo had contacted him to apologize for the hoax soon after Deadpsin.com broke the news with a long report. Te’o told ESPN that not until Tuiasosopo confessed did he finally, fully realize Kekua did not exist.
Tuiasosopo has not commented on the scheme.
The top FBI agent in northern Indiana said authorities don’t believe a crime was committed, so there is no investigation.
“I don’t think there was any financial harm to Mr. Te’o,” said Robert Ramsey, FBI supervisory special agent for northern Indiana. “There was no federal violation regarding the Internet hoax perpetrated against Mr. Te’o.”
If there had been a crime, it would fall under federal jurisdiction, he said.
Wow. So what’s the next twist in this strange story? Be heard in the comments…MORE NEWS: Candidate Conversations: Eric Adams
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