Skip to content

ESPN Report: Te’o’s records confirm phone calls

Jan 23, 2013, 3:50 PM EDT

Lennay Kekua

With Manti Te’o‘s much anticipated conversation with Katie Couric airing tomorrow afternoon, one of the final chapters in a bizarre story will play out.

While this won’t likely end any of the conspiracy theories or fascination about what really happened, one of the most important pieces of information seems to have just trickled out of ESPN’s report, burying deep beneath the lede of the story.

Manti Te’o has records to prove these phone calls happened.

This from ESPN:

A source close to Te’o gave Schaap documents that the source says are Te’o’s AT&T phone records from May 11 to Sept. 12. Their veracity could not be independently confirmed, but the source insisted they are genuine.

The records show that in that four-month span — when Te’o has said he believed Lennay Kekua to be in a Los Angeles hospital, recovering from an accident and being treated for cancer — Te’o made and received more than 1,000 calls totaling more than 500 hours in length from the same number in the 661 area code. The 661 area code covers Lancaster, which is part of Los Angeles County. The source told Schaap that Te’o believed the 661 phone number in question was Kekua’s.

Of these calls, 110 were more than 60 minutes in length, including several that were several hundred minutes long. In an ESPN interview last Friday, and in interviews with both ESPN and Sports Illustrated last fall, Te’o said he was on the phone “every single night” with a person he believed to be Kekua, often for long stretches late at night.

On Friday, he said to Schaap, “I’d be on the phone. And she had complications from the accident and, she said the only thing that could help her sleep was if I was on the phone. So I would be on the phone, and I’d have the phone on the whole night.”

From the records, however, it does not appear that Te’o was on the phone every single night for the entire night. But the volume of calls and their duration is prodigious.

The fact that there are records of Te’o’s phone conversations — some of “prodigious” durations — matches up with the accounts Te’o provided, both before and after Deadspin’s story broke, is a huge deal, and one that’s vastly under-reported right now. This should end any of the reporting that currently exists, characterizing Te’o as someone that invented a story. There seems to be records of Te’o actually speaking to someone. That much is clear.

NBC sat down with the face behind Lennay Kekua, with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s high school classmate Diane O’Meara appearing on the Today Show.  O’Meara, whose images were the ones provided to Te’o throughout this relationship, claimed to be another innocent victim in the hoax, not knowing who Te’o even was until the story broke.

She also explained away a suspicious photo she took in December, one supplied to Te’o as proof that Lennay Kekua was alive and not dead, by telling Savannah Guthrie that she took the photo as a favor for Tuiasosopo, who was making a slideshow for a cousin that had been in a traumatic car accident.

After claiming to have not spoken to Tuiasosopo since high school, she explained the logic behind taking the photo, one used as the avatar for Lennay’s Twitter page.

“I could see how people would think that, but we’re raised to be polite, we’re raised to have a kind heart,’’ O’Meara told Today. “He repeatedly reached out to me on Facebook, and I almost felt guilty about not submitting a photo with this sign for this photo slideshow. He went as far as sending me a photo with his cousin with head trauma, bandages, in the hospital with him, and out of the kindness of my heart, I thought I was just comforting somebody.’’

While there’s been a healthy dose of skepticism surrounding Te’o, with reports continually focused on the two-day window of December 6-8, when Te’o was first alerted that Kekua was potentially still alive, the far greater story is the mystery behind these phone calls. Just who was Te’o talking to?

UPDATE: According to a report from the New York Daily News, the voice of Lennay Kekua was played by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo himself.

According to attorney Milton Grimes, the high-profile Los Angeles attorney who represented Rodney King, Tuiasosopo put on a falsetto voice to talk with Te’o. “(He) thought it was a female he was talking with,” Grimes told the Daily News. “It was Ronaiah as Lennay.”

Tuiasosopo has trained both as an actor and a singer, auditioning for shows such as The Voice and leading the band at his father’s church in California.

“Come on, Hollywood does it all the time,” Grimes told the Daily News Wednesday. “People can do that.”

Grimes said that his client was seeking professional mental help, but wants to tell his side of the story.

“This wasn’t a prank to make fun,” Grimes told The Daily News. “It was establishing a communication with someone. … It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.

“He’s torn by this. He didn’t mean for anyone to be hurt. Anything that he has done, he has apologized to those he could apologize to.”

Latest Posts
  1. Mailbag: Captains, intanglibles and KeiVarae’s return

    Apr 25, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    Malik Zaire, Chris Brown Malik Zaire, Chris Brown

    It’s a weekend edition of the mailbag. We talk about next year’s potential captains, the case for Malik Zaire’s intangibles, another date in SoCal and KeiVarae Russell’s return.

  2. Post-spring stock report: Running Backs

    Apr 23, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT

    Grge Bryant, Austin Larkin Grge Bryant, Austin Larkin

    In the first of a multi-part series, we take a look at the running back position post-spring. Here’s a look at the depth chart and stock report for an intriguing position.

  3. Mailbag Open: After the Blue-Gold Game edition

    Apr 22, 2015, 6:43 PM EDT

    New Mailbox

    Want to recap spring football or the Blue-Gold game? Drop your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  4. The good, the bad and the ugly: The 86th annual Blue-Gold game

    Apr 21, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Malik Zaire Malik Zaire

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And spring games are always a double-edged sword. Let’s take a look at the good (bad and ugly) from the 86th annual Blue-Gold game.

  5. After chaotic spring, offensive roles can come into focus

    Apr 20, 2015, 3:49 PM EDT

    Everett Golson, Mike McGlinchey, Isaac Rochell Everett Golson, Mike McGlinchey, Isaac Rochell

    Spring practice is in the books. The Blue-Gold game is history. (Not here, we’ll talk about that thing all week…) So after a frantic few months in the Gug, the focus of Notre Dame’s rebuilt offensive staff can change from planning practices to… planning—well, just about everything.

  6. Irish land commitment from blue-chip OL Liam Eichenberg

    Apr 20, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    While the Blue-Gold game captured most of the headlines this weekend, the biggest victory for Brian Kelly was over Urban Meyer on the recruiting trail. On Sunday, touted Ohio offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg committed to the Irish, just hours after leaving an unofficial visit to Columbus.

  7. Five things we learned: Gold 36, Blue 34

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT

    Malik Zaire, John Turner, Jarrett Grace Malik Zaire, John Turner, Jarrett Grace

    On a perfect day in South Bend, Notre Dame capped off spring practice with a perfect Blue-Gold game. Let’s go over the five things we learned in the defense’s 36-34 victory.

  8. Stream the Blue-Gold game live

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT

    Everett Golson

    You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to stream the 86th annual Blue-Gold game.

  9. Pregame Six Pack: Finishing spring practice strong

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT

    William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge

    It’s a spring game everybody can get behind, as Notre Dame’s guaranteed to end this Saturday a winner. With the Blue-Gold game taking place on the LaBar Practice Fields, let’s get ready with the Pregame Six Pack.

  10. Blue-Gold game: Stream it here live

    Apr 18, 2015, 12:38 AM EDT

    Malik Zaire

    With Notre Dame’s annual spring game kicked out of the stadium with massive renovations underway, the Irish are taking to the LaBar practice fields to play on Saturday. But NBCSN will be there to broadcast, and the livestream of the game is also available for you.

  11. Talking through the Blue-Gold game

    Apr 17, 2015, 12:55 AM EDT

    Malik Zaire Malik Zaire

    With the Blue-Gold game set for Saturday afternoon on NBCSN, spring practice comes to an end with a rare opportunity to see Notre Dame faceoff against itself in a live scrimmage. Keith & JJ talk about some of the spring game’s storylines.

  12. With roster still in flux, Kelly plans on being at 85 by Texas

    Apr 16, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

    For the first time in over a decade, Notre Dame has a roster crunch. As Notre Dame’s fifth-year candidates submit their applications to the university, Brian Kelly plans on moving forward and using every minute he has to figure out his roster.

  13. Blue-Gold Game: Rules and Format for 86th annual spring game

    Apr 15, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Louis Nix, Steve Elmer

    Notre Dame released the official rules and format for the 86th annual Blue-Gold game. As the LaBar Practice Fields transform to house an intimate live viewing audience, an elite group of recruits and a NBCSN television production, let’s get the basics down as we begin to dig deeper into the spring finale.

  14. Quarterbacks will be live during Blue-Gold game

    Apr 15, 2015, 12:13 PM EDT

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    With Notre Dame Stadium under construction, this was already going to be a different kind of Blue-Gold game. But when Brian Kelly announced that quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire were going to be live for the first half, he confirmed it.

  15. Shamrock Series tickets could cost Boston College fans $25,000

    Apr 15, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT

    Steve Addazio Steve Addazio

    When Notre Dame plays Boston College this November in Fenway Park, tickets will be hard to come by. But for BC fans looking for a ticket through the Eagles’ athletic department, they better bring their savings accounts.

  16. Julian Okwara commits to Notre Dame

    Apr 14, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    2016 defensive end Julian Okwara committed to Notre Dame on Tuesday evening, following in the footsteps of his brother Romeo.

  17. Prosise emerging as playmaker at two positions

    Apr 14, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    C. J. Prosise C. J. Prosise

    Most thought C.J. Prosise spending spring practice working with the running backs was a contingency plan—finding a capable body to split carries with Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. But Prosise has emerged as a true wildcard in the Irish offense, with Brian Kelly looking for new ways to get the football in the 220-pounder’s hands.

  18. Even without guarantee, Kelly expects Golson to return next season

    Apr 13, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT

    Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Brian Kelly can’t be sure that Everett Golson will be here in 2015. But after 25 years of coaching college football, Notre Dame’s head coach feels like Golson’s actions are speaking for themselves.

  19. Notre Dame mailbag: Consistency, the D and a fair QB competition

    Apr 12, 2015, 1:29 PM EDT

    Brian Van Gorder Brian Van Gorder

    With a big scrimmage on Saturday to get to and a Sunday at Augusta around the corner, let’s get to some mailbag questions.

  20. Grace opens up about the long road back

    Apr 11, 2015, 3:09 PM EDT

    Jarrett Grace Jarrett Grace

    When Jarrett Grace broke his leg in four places, the linebacker’s career nearly ended. Eighteen months later, Grace is back on the field, and back a part of the master plans for the Irish defense.