Hoax bad, but not criminal

January, 18, 2013
1/18/13
8:00
AM ET
Whether Manti Te'o was a victim of a hoax or one of its participants, the bizarre scenario involving a nonexistent girlfriend raises the possibility of legal repercussions. Some legal questions surrounding the case and their answers:

Q: Is anyone in real trouble? Will any of the participants face criminal charges?

A: No. There is the theoretical possibility of a federal charge of wire fraud or cyberfraud as the result of the participants' use of the telephone and the Internet, but a cyberhoax does not rise to the level of a cybercrime. No one profited from the scheme. No one is the victim of any form of extortion. The only damage anyone suffered is the damage to Te'o's ego and reputation.

Any prosecutor who reviews the situation will quickly conclude that it was a joke that was funny for some and sick for others and that there is no one who qualifies as a victim of a crime. Police officers, investigators and prosecutors want to invest their time and their resources in situations that involve serious injury and damage. They are not interested in helping someone in a situation like Te'o's get even for embarrassments he has suffered.

For Lester Munson's full story, click here.

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