Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was voice on phone impersonating Lennay Kekua
Just when it seemed like the Manti Te'o saga had taken every twist and turn possible, there's a new development to make it all the more dizzying.
The New York Daily News reported on Thursday that the lawyer for Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the mastermind behind the hoax, said that his client was the voice impersonating Lennay Kekua. According to phone records, Te'o had spent hundreds of phone calls, many that lasted more than an hour, with the woman he believed to be Kekua:
The Heisman Trophy finalist “thought it was a female he was talking with,” lawyer Milton Grimes acknowledged to the Daily News. “It was Ronaiah as Lennay. [C]ome on, Hollywood does it all the time. People can do that."
The résumé of Tuiasosopo, 22, includes vocal and dramatic training. He was also president of the drama club at his high school, a member of a Christian rock band and had auditioned for the TV talent show, "The Voice" in 2012. Footage of him performing can be seen in a YouTube video he posted in June 2011. The photos of Kekua were instead pictures that had been taken off the Facebook page of Diane O’Meara, a high school classmate of Tuiasosopo, who reportedly had no knowledge of the hoax.
Grimes said his client wasn't trying to prank Te'o, rather he was reaching out with the hope of establishing a connection with someone to form a relationship:
“This wasn’t a prank to make fun. It was establishing a communication with someone. [I]t was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.”
Tuiasosopo is currently seeing a mental health professional and plans on coming forward with his own side of the story, though Grimes would not give a timetable for this interview. He also said that Te'o finding out about Kekua's death hours after his grandmother had passed away was merely a coincidence.
In an interview with Katie Couric set to air today, Te'o said he found out almost three months after Kekua's death that she's still alive and that he was going to be put on national television two days later.
“This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12. Now I get a phone call on Dec. 5, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going to be put on national TV two days later.”