Manti Te'o Releases Hoax Voice Mails

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 24 2013 2:24 PM

Did a Man Really Pose as Te'o's "Girlfriend" on the Phone? Listen For Yourself.

Update: Katie Couric has released three voicemails provided by Manti Te'o. If we believe Te'o, he believed the voice we hear on the recordings was that of "Lennay Kekua," his long-distance girlfriend who proved to be a hoax. If you believe Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and his lawyer (and that the messages are the real deal), the voice you here is Tuiasosopo posing as Kekua in an attempt to have some type of unspecified "relationship" with the Notre Dame star.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The page hosting the voicemails is currently down, but fortunately Deadspin—which broke the story of the dead girlfriend that was neither—snagged the recordings. You'll find them embedded below.

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Original Post at 10:58 a.m.: Manti Te'o's pre-recorded interview with Katie Couric is set to broadcast in full this afternoon. From the pre-released excerpts it appears as though the Notre Dame football star will largely stick to the story he and his family have previously laid out: That he was the victim of a catfish scam perpetrated by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and two unnamed accomplices, one female and one male. Te'o's only PR sins, according to his version of events, were that he temporarily played along with the hoax between learning the truth about the fictional Lennay Kekua in early December and when the story broke this month, and that he "tailored" certain aspects of what he thought was his relationship with her to lead people to believe they'd met in person.

One major piece of evidence that supports Te'o's version of events is his phone bill. According to ESPN, "Te'o made and received more than 1,000 calls totaling more than 500 hours in length" to/from a number he says he believed belonged to Kekua. That certainly would support his story of believing he was in a rather serious long-distance relationship. But, like almost every other twist and turn in this bizarre story, every answer leads to even more questions, in this case: Who was he speaking with and how did he or she keep up the act for so long?

Tuiasosopo's lawyer provided answers—or at least what his client claims are the answer—to the New York Daily News:

Tuiasosopo, posing as the mysterious Lennay Kekua, was the falsetto voice on the other end of the all-night phone calls with the Notre Dame star, the scammer’s lawyer said. The Heisman Trophy finalist "thought it was a female he was talking with," lawyer Milton Grimes acknowledged to the Daily News. “It was Ronaiah as Lennay.”
Grimes, best known for helping Rodney King win a multimillion-dollar judgment against the city of Los Angeles, compared the deception to an actor playing a role. “Come on, Hollywood does it all the time,” Grimes said Wednesday. “People can do that.”

For those hoping for a taste of Tuiasosopo's vocal range might sound like, the Atlantic Wire brings us this clip of the hoaxer and aspiring musician:

Grimes, no doubt laying the groundwork for Tuiasosopo's public (and potentially legal) defense, says his client had no intention of hurting Te'o—a claim that would normally be downright inconceivable if it weren't for the fact that this story long ago left the realm of the believable. "This wasn’t a prank to make fun," Grimes told the paper. "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."

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

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