|Phone records given to ESPN seem to back Manti Te'o's claims of innocence. (US Presswire)|
Manti Te'o's claim to have been an unwitting victim in the now-infamous "Lennay Kekua" hoax was further bolstered Wednesday when ESPN reported that phone records delivered to reporter Jeremy Schaap appeared to show lengthy phone calls between Te'o and a number registered in the Los Angeles area -- a number purported to be the one used by the woman claiming to be Kekua.
According to ESPN, the legitimacy of the records could not be "independently confirmed," but was vouched for by the source who offered them to the network. They showed that between the dates of May 11 and Sept. 12 of last year -- when Te'o believed Kekua was recovering in the hospital from a car accident, before passing away due to leukemia -- the Notre Dame star "made and received more than 1,000 calls totaling more than 500 hours in length from the same number" which Te'o believed belonged to Kekua.
"Of these calls, 110 were more than 60 minutes in length," ESPN reported, "including several that were several hundred minutes long."
The calls would seem to corroborate Te'o's assertion that he was a victim rather than co-conspirator in the hoax, one he previously told Schapp alleged mastermind Roniah Tuiasosopo had apologized for perpetrating in a private phone call. Diane O'Meara, the woman whose image was used without her consent as part of the hoax, also claims that Tuisasopo -- her high school classmate -- has confessed and apologized to her.
Tuiasosopo has not yet made any public comment, and the woman who allegedly spent so many hours on the phone with Te'o as the voice of Kekua has not yet been publicly identified.
Te'o told NBC's Katie Couric in an interview that aired Wednesday that he had lied to the media in early December, those interviews coming in the immediate wake of Kekua contacting him again months after her supposed death.
"Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12," Te'o told Couric. "Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she's alive and then I'm going to be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?"
Te'o has admitted to "tailoring" his reponses to media throughout the season and lying to his parents to avoid the fact he never met a girlfriend he would later describe as the "love of [his] life," but he has claimed to have been an innocent victim in the Kekua hoax since it was first revealed by Deadspin on Jan. 16.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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