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. Irish A-to-Z: Scott Daly

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    Anonymous long-snappers are the best kind of long snappers. And for the better part of two seasons, Scott Daly was exactly that. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at a man who is no longer anonymous.

  2. OL Parker Boudreaux commits to Notre Dame

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class added a big commitment from Florida offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux today. One of the country’s top interior linemen chose Notre Dame in a online video done in collaboration with Bleacher Report.

  3. Irish A-to-Z: Shaun Crawford

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT

    Cleveland Plain Dealer Cleveland Plain Dealer

    Great football players come in all shapes and sizes. Incoming freshman Shaun Crawford will likely prove that. The diminutive cornerback comes to South Bend looking to make a big impact.

  4. Offseason Q&A: Clemson

    Jul 1, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    South Carolina v Clemson Getty Images

    When you look at Notre Dame’s 2015 schedule, it’s hard to skip past the Irish’s trip to Clemson. Returning to Death Valley for the first time since Joe Montana led a comeback victory in 1977, Brian Kelly’s squad will take on Dabo Swinney’s impressive team, the makings of a football game with College Football Playoff implications. Shakin’ the Southland’s Brian Lewis gets us up to speed.

  5. Irish A-to-Z: Te’von Coney

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Courtesy of Notre Dame Media Relations Courtesy of Notre Dame Media Relations

    While Jerry Tillery stole the headlines, fellow classmate Te’von Coney more than held his own this spring. The linebacker may have entered a packed depth chart at linebacker, but he solidified his place as a key cog in the future plans of Notre Dame’s defense.

  6. Irish A-to-Z: Nick Coleman

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Nick Coleman

    Hailing from the same high school that brought the Irish Malik Zaire, incoming freshman Nick Coleman looks to infuse the same type of unlikely toughness to the secondary that Zaire brings to the quarterback position. Irish A-to-Z rolls on.

  7. Irish A-to-Z: Amir Carlisle

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Amir Carlisle Amir Carlisle

    Irish A-to-Z continues with Amir Carlisle. The winding on-field journey for the fifth year senior ends in 2015.

  8. Irish get commitment from safety Spencer Perry

    Jun 29, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    Spencer Perry

    Florida safety Spencer Perry committed to Notre Dame on Monday, a week after visiting campus for the Irish Invasion camp. The move followed Perry’s de-commitment from in-state power Florida, taking the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from a Gator pledge to a member of Notre Dame’s rapidly growing 2016 recruiting class.

  9. Irish A-to-Z: Daniel Cage

    Jun 29, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

    One of the last members of Notre Dame’s 2014 recruiting class was one of the first people to make an impact on the field. Defensive tackle Daniel Cage is next in Irish A-to-Z.

  10. Greg Bryant suspension tests offensive depth chart

    Jun 29, 2015, 11:32 AM EDT

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Getty Images

    News broke Monday morning that running back Greg Bryant will be suspended for the first four games of the season. As first-reported by Irish 247, Bryant will miss a quarter of the regular season based on the dreaded-and-ambiguous “violation of team rules,” thinning a running back depth chart that was already down to just Bryant, returning starter Tarean Folston and converted wide receiver C.J. Prosise.

  11. Irish A-to-Z: Jimmy Byrne

    Jun 29, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    via Twitter via Twitter

    Like the rest of his classmates along the offensive line, Jimmy Byrne spent 2014 learning the ropes and hitting the weight room. Redshirt off, Irish A-to-Z continues with the Ohio native.

  12. Irish land top 2017 TE Brock Wright

    Jun 26, 2015, 10:28 PM EDT

    Rivals.com Rivals.com

    Texas tight end Brock Wright has committed to Notre Dame, adding another elite recruit to the Irish tight end pipeline. Wright is a 2017 prospect who camped in South Bend last week for Irish Invasion.

  13. Irish A-to-Z: Devin Butler

    Jun 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    With KeiVarae Russell suspended and Cody Riggs hurt, Devin Butler got his chance to be a starting cornerback. It wasn’t necessarily a positive experience. We look ahead to an important season for the junior defensive back.

  14. Offseason Q&A: UMass

    Jun 26, 2015, 11:07 AM EDT

    Massachusetts v Vanderbilt Getty Images

    After a difficult three-game stretch to start Notre Dame’s season, the Irish will welcome UMass to South Bend, a game that was originally intended to match up former Irish offensive coordinator Charley Molnar with his previous employer.

  15. Report: Irish might be adding OL Jurkovic

    Jun 25, 2015, 6:07 PM EDT

    An Irish Illustrated report says that Notre Dame might add a piece to the 2016 recruiting class, with touted offensive lineman and one-time Ohio State commit Mirko Jurkovic Jr. in the crosshairs.

  16. Irish A-to-Z: Greg Bryant

    Jun 25, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT

    North Carolina v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Greg Bryant has yet to play up to the 5-star status he entered South Bend possessing. Now for the good news: He’s got three more seasons to try.

  17. Irish A-to-Z: Chris Brown

    Jun 24, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    Chris Brown enters his senior season in South Bend, still looking to build on a magical start. Irish A-to-Z rolls along, knowing that we’ve got a long way to go before the start of the season.

  18. Irish A-to-Z: Justin Brent

    Jun 24, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT

    Justin Brent, Devin Butler Justin Brent, Devin Butler

    There are good debut seasons. And then there are debut seasons like the one Justin Brent just had. Let’s take a closer look at the sophomore receiver as Irish A-to-Z continues.

  19. Offseason Q&A: Georgia Tech

    Jun 24, 2015, 1:43 PM EDT

    Justin Thomas, Synjyn Days Justin Thomas, Synjyn Days

    Last year, Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech team burst onto the scene, nearly wrestling the ACC championship away from Florida State in a primetime showdown. While the Yellow Jackets didn’t pull out the victory, they sprinted away from Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl and won by double-digits, capping off an 11-win season.

  20. OLB/DE Jamir Jones commits to Notre Dame

    Jun 23, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Notre Dame v Syracuse

    Notre Dame’s quick-growing 2016 recruiting class is adding another familiar name. Rochester defensive end Jamir Jones, brother of starting defensive tackle Jarron Jones, committed to the Irish coaching staff on Tuesday, fresh off receiving his offer. He joins Julian Okwara—brother of Romeo—as younger siblings of Irish players in the 2016 recruiting class.