Heat's Chris Andersen cleared
For more than a year, Miami Heat center Chris "Birdman" Andersen lived with a cloud over his head and a sullied reputation after authorities in Colorado raided his home as part of an investigation surrounding a relationship with an underaged girl from California.
It came to light Wednesday that not only was Andersen not guilty of a crime, but he was the victim of an "extremely complex" Internet scheme. Police in both Colorado and Canada believe it was the work of a woman living in rural Manitoba.
Andersen has been told that prosecutors will not file charges against him, clearing him after a 15-month ordeal that nearly cost him his NBA career.
We were always confident that Chris was innocent but we just couldn't figure out what had happened. It turned out that it was a Manti Te'o situation. It was Manti Te'o on steroids.” -- Chris Andersen's lawyer, Mark Bryant
"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. "It turned out that it was a Manti Te'o situation. It was Manti Te'o on steroids."
Te'o, the former Notre Dame football star, was caught up in a scheme last year when several individuals created a fake person and started a relationship with Te'o over the Internet, something known as "catfishing."
In Andersen's case, a woman in the middle used social media to dupe two people without their knowledge, according to police.
The woman, identified by the Denver Post as Shelly Lynn Chartier of Easterville, Manitoba, posed as Andersen in electronic conversations with a woman in California. Then she posed as the California woman in electronic conversations with Andersen.
Along the way, police told Andersen, she made threats pretending to be Andersen and attempted extortion pretending to be the woman from California. Chartier was arrested by Canadian authorities in January.
Her communications between the parties were successful enough that the woman from California traveled to Colorado, when Andersen was then playing for the Denver Nuggets, and met Andersen. Their relationship, however, did not develop. At the time of their meeting, the woman from California was of legal age, Bryant said.
"When they searched Chris' house they were basically looking for an I.P. address," Bryant said. "But it wasn't there. They kept investigating but it took time because it ended up involving two countries."
More than a year after sheriffs from Douglas Country, Colo., searched Andersen's home, they asked for a meeting with him. Andersen attended the meeting in the Denver area last month shortly after he had re-signed with the Miami Heat after helping them win the NBA championship.
At that meeting the sheriffs were joined by a representative from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Using charts and slowly explaining their case, the authorities informed Andersen what had happened to him.
"It was right out of CSI with all the charts," Bryant said. "When we walked in there both pretty hostile, it had been 15 months since this happened and we were cooperating but we hadn't heard anything. Chris had a pretty good scowl."
As the police started showing him what took place, Andersen unfolded his arms and then moved closer to the table. He and Bryant just looked at each other, stunned by what they were being told had taken place.
"Some things started making sense to him," Bryant said. "By the end of the interview he was very grateful. The work and the people who worked on this -- he was just very grateful. But when he walked out he was solemn because there were other victims here."
Andersen was never arrested or charged in the case. But after his home was searched he left the Nuggets, who were in a playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers at the time, and was later released by the team. He got no contract offers until last January, when the Heat extended him a 10-day deal that later turned into a contract for the rest of the season.
Andersen ended up being a key member of the team and was especially successful coming off the bench during the playoffs, when he averaged 6.4 points and shot 81 percent.
"The Heat embraced him like a member of the family, not just as a player," Bryant said.
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Andersen had offers to go elsewhere over the summer but re-signed with the Heat for two years and $2.8 million.
"We are not surprised this is the end result," the Heat said in a statement. "We are happy for Chris and glad this unfortunate incident is behind him."
Mostly, Bryant said Andersen is relieved to have his name cleared. After the investigation became public, Andersen's reputation took a serious hit.
Bryant described him being holed up in his suburban Denver home as news helicopters circled overhead. Bryant had to bring him groceries because Andersen was afraid to leave home.
At age 34, being released by the Nuggets and with no resolution to the case in sight, Andersen's career was in jeopardy.
"Somebody's reputation worldwide was smeared; you Googled his name and at the top he was being called a pedophile. The cruelty of public opinion was very difficult," Bryant said. "It's been exhaustive and humbling to restore his name. But we're not glad; nothing glad came out of this."