One of the most inimitable players in the NBA was the victim of an Internet scheme nearly as intricate as his trademark tattoos, his lawyer said Wednesday.
The lengthy nightmare that finally ended for Chris Andersen, the Miami Heat’s Birdman, unfolded over 15 months and involved a search of his Larkspur, Colo., home by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit in May 2012. It nearly cost Anderson, who was playing for the Denver Nuggets until his release last summer, his career. He has been told that he will not be charged in the case.
“We were always confident that Chris was innocent, but we just couldn’t figure out what had happened,” Andersen’s lawyer, Mark Bryant, told ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst. “It turned out that it was a Manti Te’o situation. It was Manti Te’o on steroids.”
Te’o, now with the San Diego Chargers, was part of a catfishing hoax a year ago while he was at Notre Dame. As for the Andersen case, it was more complex. The woman in Canada was catfishing him by posing as other people to him and posing as Andersen to catfish others, seeking relationships and gifts and making threats to other people via social media. The woman, according to Bryant, has been charged in connection with the case in Canada. She has not yet been charged in Colorado and Andersen’s home was raided in May 2012, according to the Denver Post, because police were looking for an I.P. address.
“It is my understanding that this case involves numerous victims,” Bryant said. “… Chris was a victim in this case.”
The Denver Post identifies the woman as Shelly Lynn Chartier of Easterville, Manitoba. She allegedly posed as Andersen in what the Post says were “electronic conversations” with a woman in California and posed as the California woman in the same sorts of conversations with Andersen. She purportedly also made threats while posing as Andersen and made extortion demands.
The California woman, who was 17 (the age of consent in Colorado) at the time, actually met Andersen when she traveled to Colorado, but there was no relationship with him and Bryant said that woman is “also a victim.”
Last month, Andersen, who joined the Heat last winter, met with Colorado and Royal Mounted Police authorities, who explained what a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said was an “extremely complex” case “right out of ‘CSI.’ ”
Andersen was released by the Nuggets last July as the investigation was continuing and his career appeared to be in jeopardy until the Heat signed him.
“Somebody’s reputation worldwide was smeared; you Googled his name and at the top he was being called a pedophile,” Bryant told Windhorst. “The cruelty of public opinion was very difficult. It’s been exhaustive and humbling to restore his name. But we’re not glad; nothing glad came out of this.”