Manti Te'o hoax: Alleged mastermind wants therapy, attorney says
"He did not intend to harm him in anyway," attorney Milton Grimes said.
Tuiasosopo was 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 TV’s Dr. Phil, Grimes told The Times Tuesday.
The pre-taped heart-to-heart would be aired Thursday, Grimes said.
The onetime lawyer for the late Rodney King said the 22-year-old Tuiasosopo of Lancaster, "feels as though he needs therapy and part of that therapy is to ... tell the truth," Grimes said.
Grimes said his client had pretended to be Lennay Kekua, the woman with whom Te’o said he had fallen in love -- but never met. The attorney declined to say why his client decided to play act with Te’o or whether he had personally known Te’o in his real persona as Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
The attorney insisted that it was absolutely plausible that Tuiasosopo could have disguised his voice to sound like a woman, similar to what people do when they are role playing or method acting, Grimes said.
"It don’t think it’s so unusual that a person could imitate the voice of a person of a different sex," 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 the fall of 2012, when the Heisman Trophy runner-up helped his team to an undefeated regular season and 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 exact details of his client’s ruse would be revealed during the interview with Dr. Phil.
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 had 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.
-- Ann M. Simmons in Palmdale
Photo: Talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw, left, interviews Ronaiah Tuiasosopo during taping for the "Dr. Phil Show" in Los Angeles. Credit: Associated Press