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Criminal Defense Attorneys Donít Expect Charges Against Manti Te'o

Published on 01/24/2013 -

By According to at least one criminal defense attorney, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o will likely escape criminal charges for his alleged lies about his imaginary girlfriend, although he may have already been convicted in the court of public opinion. Te’o, a star linebacker for Notre Dame who has declared for this year’s NFL Draft, grabbed national headlines last week when it was revealed that a girlfriend who died of leukemia was a fraud, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the linebacker’s actions, as well as the actions of the people who allegedly tricked him, however ethically dubious, will likely not result in criminal prosecution because he didn’t violate any criminal laws, according to sources.

Notre Dame Linebacker Admits that Dead Girlfriend was a Hoax

Shortly after investigators discovered that “Kekua,” the alleged girlfriend of Te’o who died of leukemia several months ago, was a fraud, Manti Te’o claimed that he was the victim of a “sick joke,” according to sources. Te’o told reporters that he had been tricked into engaging in an online relationship with a woman who didn’t exist. But a few days later, in an interview with Katie Couric, Te’o admitted that he eventually discovered that the woman was fake, and intentionally misled reporters and university officials by continuing to act as if she was real. So, according to his recent story, Te’o engaged in temporary fraud by allowing the media to extol his virtues as a devastated boyfriend when he knew such a portrayal was a false. But sources are quick to note that Te’o didn’t break any laws during this period, so he likely won’t have to defend against criminal chargesin the future. More surprisingly, the alleged online fraudsters will likely escape criminal liability, as well.

Online Fraudsters Unlikely to Face Criminal Charges

The specific identities of the people responsible for the creation of “Kekua” have yet to be revealed, but legal analysts believe that, despite their exposure to civil liability, they likely won’t be pursued by criminal prosecutors. According to Ben Brafman, a famous criminal defense lawyer, if the saga is simply a “practical joke gone wild,” the people behind the hoax aren’t criminally liable. In Brafman’s view, if courts started to prosecute practical jokes, they would quickly “run into First Amendment issues,” and would also “overwhelm the scarce prosecutorial resources that could be put to better use.” The only potential way these fraudsters could face criminal charges, according to Brafman, is if they were trying to take money from Te’o. But according to Notre Dame officials who investigated the incident, there were no efforts to profit off the hoax.

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