Manti Te'o hoax suspect 'in love' with football star



The man accused of hoaxing Manti Te’o fell “deeply romantically
in love” with the Notre Dame linebacker and said he was “confused” about his
sexuality, TV’s Dr. Phil McGraw told the "Today" show in a clip that aired Wednesday.


The Antelope Valley man, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, 22, is allegedly the person behind the Te’o fake-girlfriend affair. He is planning to
come clean and reveal the exact nature of his relationship with the football
player and his role in the hoax during an interview with McGraw to be aired Thursday, his
attorney, Milton Grimes, told The Times.


Grimes said Tuiasosopo was acting
when he portrayed "Lennay Kekua," the woman with whom Te’o said he
had fallen in love with, but never met. Grimes said his client pretended to be
the woman in phone calls with the football star, disguising his voice to sound
like a woman, similar to what people do when they are role-playing or method
acting.


"I don’t think it’s so unusual
that a person could imitate the voice of a person of a different sex,"
Grimes said.


In a short clip of that interview
obtained by The Times, McGraw asks Tuiasosopo why he ended his relationship
with Te’o.


“For many reasons,” Tuiasosopo said. “There were many times where Manti and Lennay
had broken up before.... They would break up, and then something would bring
them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or something
going in Lennay’s life -- in this case, in my life. I wanted to end it, because
after everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move
on with my life. I had to get me, Ronaiah. I had to start just living and just
let this go.”


Grimes, the onetime lawyer for the
late Rodney King, said Tuiasosopo "feels as though he needs therapy and part of that therapy
is to ... tell the truth."


McGraw told "Today" that “Ronaiah
had a number of life experiences that damaged this young man in some very
serious ways,” and after speaking with Tuiasosopo, he believes that Te’o "absolutely, unequivocally" was not involved in the hoax.


Grimes insisted his client didn't
mean to hurt Te'o.


"He did not intend to harm him
in any way," Grimes said.


Te'o had spoken to reporters
repeatedly about his supposed girlfriend and her battle with cancer, a story
that captivated college football fans throughout fall 2012, when the
Heisman Trophy runner-up helped his team finish out the regular season undefeated and helped get them to
the national championship game.


A Deadspin.com report published Jan. 16 first
revealed that the girlfriend was fake, and identified Tuiasosopo as the man
behind the hoax.


Grimes said Tuiasosopo had chosen
Dr. Phil for his first public appearance because he felt that as a medical
professional, Dr. Phil "might be inclined to have better insight [than a
regular reporter] into what he’s going through ... the particular
condition," Grimes said.


Diane O'Meara, a Southern California
woman whose photos were apparently used in the fake girlfriend's social media
accounts, told The Times that Tuiasosopo repeatedly asked for photos and videos
from her in the weeks before the hoax unraveled. She called his actions
"kind of annoying," but added, "as a compassionate person, I
totally believed him."


Grimes said he had warned his
client, who is seeing a medical professional, that he could face legal
consequences for admitting that he falsified his identity on the Internet. But
Tuiasosopo insisted that going public was something he had to do in order to
move on with his healing process.


"His point is that he wants to
heal," Grimes said. "He knows that if he doesn’t come out and tell
the truth, it will interfere with him getting out of this place that he is
in."


"This is part of my public
healing," Grimes quoted Tuiasosopo as saying.


ALSO:


Listen to Lennay Kekua’s voicemails for Manti Te’o


Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o get trapped in a good story


Manti Te'o hoax: Diane O'Meara says she was hounded for photos


--Matt Stevens, Kate Mather and Ann Simmons 



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