When Notre Dame mobilized on Wednesday night to characterize the Manti Te’o fake dead girlfriend hoax as something for which Te’o had no responsibility, the effort included a press conference from Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, who declared among other things that the university’s ultimate conclusions were based on a report from a private investigation firm that had rolled up its sleeves and gotten to the truth.
Apparently, no sleeves were rolled in the making of the report.
According to the South Bend Tribune, a university spokesman admits that the investigators conducted no interviews. The firm didn’t interview Te’o or his family. The firm didn’t attempt to contact the admitted perpetrator of the hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
The firm didn’t examine cell phone records to confirm Te’o's claim of eight-hour phone conversations with the person posing as Lennay Kekua. The firm also didn’t look at emails or other electronic communications that would demonstrate the length and extent of the communications between Te’o and the person(s) playing the role of Kekua.
If pressed, Notre Dame would surely claim that those steps weren’t needed because the smoking gun was found by searching the Internet and other public sources. If forced to tell the whole truth, Notre Dame likely would say the investigators were instructed to do nothing that would increase the chances of the story being leaked and in turn reported before the January 7 BCS national title game. Once interviews begin, other names are mentioned. To be complete, those people need to be interviewed, too. Eventually, the interviews could have included someone who would have blabbed about the situation to the media.
Of course, an interview with Te’o wouldn’t have done that. Instead, the investigators presumably received whatever notes Swarbrick created during his possible kid-gloves meetings with Te’o.
And so Notre Dame’s proclamation that no laws were broken was made without the benefit of Te’o's uncle’s suspicions about Tuiasosopo’s financial incentives, or Te’o's claim that at one point he was asked to provide checking account numbers, a clear sign that there was an attempt to turn something that supposedly was sport into profit.
“Early on, she said that she was going to send me money, actually,” Te’o told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap. “And she wanted to send it and she wanted to directly deposit it into my account. So she wants to know my checking account number, which I didn’t give her. . . . I’m not giving my checking account number. I don’t care who you are. I’m not giving my checking account number out to you. Then she went on and asked my best friend, Robby. Hey, Rob, I want to help you guys out with groceries or help you guys pay for the bills for the house. I’ve saved up some money, you know. Give me your checking account number, and I’ll put it in there. . . . I told him, whatever you do, do not give out your checking account number.”
Te’o said that the “red flag” went away when he was told by the student credit union that someone who wants to put money in to his account couldn’t take money out with the account numbers. But then he didn’t provide the numbers, even though he no longer believed money could be taken from his account.
Still, the “national” firm Notre Dame hired didn’t even know about the potential red flag, because the firm didn’t ask Te’o about that. Or anything else. Or anyone else.
So the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is still out there. Between the suspicions regarding Tuiasosopo and the attempt to get Te’o's checking account numbers, there’s enough evidence to justify exploration of the situation by the appropriate officials. If the appropriate officials are so inclined.
If they’re not, we’d love to know why. A major goal of the criminal justice system is deterrence. And there’s no better way to deter crime than to fight it in the context of a high-profile case.