A lawyer for Manti Te'o's alleged hoaxster has added a new wrinkle to the already thorny mystery of the Notre Dame football star's fake dead girlfriend, saying that his client disguised his voice to sound like a woman's. The reveal comes just as Te'o's interview with ABC's Katie Couric is set to air Thursday.
The man allegedly behind the hoax, an acquaintance named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, posed as the fictional Lennay Kekua not just online but in a number of all-night phone conversations with Te'o, Tuiasosopo's lawyer Milton Grimes told The New York Daily News.
Te'o thought he was speaking with his supposed girlfriend when in fact, Grimes said, "It was Ronaiah as Lennay" — faking a woman's voice with a falsetto.
"Come on, Hollywood does it all the time," Grimes told the Daily News. "People can do that."
Tuiasosopo — a musician and singer who has auditioned for NBC's "The Voice" and performs with a Christian band — has had voice and dramatic training, the Daily News reported.
"This wasn't a prank to make fun," Grimes told the Daily News, terming the hoax "a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship." He declined to characterize the specifics of how his client might be troubled.
Last week, an anonymous friend of Tuiasosopo told ESPN that he had tearfully called her and confessed to the hoax. She said he told her it was not the first time he had created a fake persona online to dupe somebody into a relationship.
ESPN also interviewed two other people who said their relatives had been duped by Tuiasosopo in a similar scam.
Tuiasosopo himself has not spoken publicly about his alleged involvement in the hoax.
Te'o for his part has denied any involvement in the hoax, saying he was simply a victim.
He did admit to Katie Couric in an interview set to air on Couric's ABC show Thursday that he had lied about his supposed girlfriend's death of leukemia more than once, even after he had discovered the hoax.
"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. "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?"