The fake girlfriend was strange enough. But it keeps getting weirder.
A lawyer for the Antelope Valley man accused of perpetrating the hoax on football star Manti Te'o spoke publicly about it for the first time Wednesday, the day before Te'o's interview with Katie Couric aired.
Not only did Ronaiah Tuiasosopo invent "Lennay Kekua," his lawyer told the New York Daily News, he played her on the phone during long and intimate conversations with Te'o.
The paper quoted lawyer Milton Grimes as saying Wednesday, "It was Ronaiah as Lennay."
Grimes compared it to an actor playing a role, the New York Daily News reported.
"Come on, Hollywood does it all the time," Grimes said. "People can do that.
Grimes, whose office is in Los Angeles, did not return a call and email Thursday from the Los Angeles Daily News.
In an interview with Katie Couric broadcast Thursday, Te'o said Tuiasosopo confessed to him after sports website Deadspin broke the story of the hoax Jan. 16.
"He didn't say why," Te'o told Couric. "He explained that he just wanted to help people ... being someone that he wasn't and trying to connect with people on a different level to help them out."
Te'o did not react to Grimes' comments about Tuiasosopo playing the woman on the phone. The interview with Couric was taped before that revelation.
Te'o said he did not help concoct the hoax.
"What I went through was real," he said. "The feeling, the pain, the sorrow, that was all real. That's something I can't fake."
Tuiasosopo still hadn't spoken publicly about his role in the hoax late Thursday. The former Antelope Valley High School football star, whose family lives in Palmdale, was first implicated in the hoax in the Jan. 16 Deadspin report.
Deadspin said Tuiasosopo tricked Te'o, a Notre Dame football star, into believing he was dating a woman named Lennay Kekua who, in reality, did not exist.
The story of the romance and the woman's supposed death from leukemia drew national media attention last year as Te'o competed for the Heisman trophy. (He came in second.)
Kekua's supposed death seemed even more tragic because it came near the same time as the death of Te'o's grandmother.
The grandmother did really die, Deadspin found.
Te'o admitted to Couric that he lied to his father, saying he had met Kekua when he hadn't. He also admitted to lying after a December phone call made it clear the story was fishy. He said he didn't know how to tell the truth when he'd told another story for so long, believing it was true.
For the fictional Kekua's photo, Tuiasosopo used a Facebook photo of a high school classmate, Diane O'Meara, who now lives in Torrance. O'Meara told the "Today" show Tuiasosopo called and apologized to her.
Tuiasosopo is seeing a therapist and plans to tell his side of the story publicly, Grimes told the New York Daily News.
The lawyer said Tuiasosopo, who is a Christian singer and auditioned for the television show "The Voice," did not set out to hurt Te'o.
"This wasn't a prank to make fun," Grimes told the paper. "It was establishing a communication with someone. ... It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship."