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Jury Selection Begins In Sypher Trial

By Rick Howlett

Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in the federal trial of Karen Sypher, who’s charged with trying to extort millions of dollars from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.    

Sypher is accused of threatening to go public with an allegation of rape against Pitino if he did not give her $10 million plus pay off her mortgage and her children’s college tuition.

Pitino reported the alleged extortion attempt to the FBI in April of 2009.

He said he had a sexual encounter with Sypher in a Louisville restaurant six years earlier, but it was consensual. A police investigation found no evidence that there was a sexual assault.

Sypher denies trying to extort Pitino or retaliate against him for reporting her to the authorities. Prosecutors say Sypher had previously made a false sexual harrassment claim against a local businessman.  

The case has generated intense media attention. Officials have taken the unusual step of setting up a special room in the courthouse during the trial to accomodate reporters. An overflow room will also available for people to listen to the trial if there are no seats in the courtroom.        

Opening arguments in the trial are set for July 26.

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Pitino Criticizes Media For Reporting Of Sex Scandal

Pitino scoldingUniversity of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is criticizing the media for its reporting of the sex scandal involving a woman accused of trying to extort him.

Pitino called a press conference after recordings of a police inteview with Karen Sypher were released today in which Syhper accused Pitino of sexually assaulting her six years ago. Prosecutors declined to bring charges against Pitino.

“What I don’t understand is why you keep fostering this behavior. On a day when Ted Kennedy died, we broke with the news here in louisville with Karen Sypher audio and tapes to the detective, and its already been put out. That’s a pretty sad commentary on us,” Pitino said.

Pitino told authorities he had a consensual sexual encounter with Sypher at a Louisville restaurant in 2003.

She was charged this year with trying to extort millions of dollars from Pitino and is awaiting trial.

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Pitino Apologizes For Sexual Tryst

University of Louisville men’s basketball coach has apologized to his family and the university for an extramarital affair he had six years ago. Pitino apology1

In an interview with police that was made public this week,  Pitino acknowledged that he had sex at a Louisville restaurant in 2003 with Karen Sypher, who has since been charged with trying to extort money from Pitino.

At a Wednesday press conference, Pitino said he’d already apologized to his family for his “indiscretion” and wanted to apologize to his extended family at the university.

He said he wants to continue coaching at U of L “for as long as they’ll have me.”

“I  love the game, love my players, love this university as well as this community.   I want to coach nowhere else and I don’t believe in anything as much as I believe in this university and this state,” Pitino said.

University president James Ramsey said in a statement that he’s disappointed with Pitino’s error in judgement, but the coach did the right thing in admitting his mistake.

Pitino’s entire statement can be heard here.

Listen to Stephanie Sanders’ feature story on the Pitino sex scandal.

Statement from Dr. James Ramsey, University of Louisville President:
Rick Pitino is the University of Louisville’s basketball coach. He has been a role model for countless young people and a positive influence on this community.

Regardless of the truth or falsehood of specific actions that have been attributed to the coach, he’s clearly made errors in judgment that have come under intense public scrutiny. We can’t ignore these errors in judgment, and they have saddened and disappointed me. As we try to teach our students, when you make a mistake, you admit it and right it as best you can. Coach has done that today.

It’s not an easy thing to come before the university community and all of you to admit mistakes and commit to do better. I know this has been difficult on the coach, it’s been difficult on me, and difficult for our university. But as Coach Pitino and I discussed earlier today, this was the right thing for him to do.

We hope this closes this chapter; we’re all ready to move on. Our university is recovering from a flood that shut down a large portion of our campus, preparing for the start of classes on August 24th, and getting ready to welcome the most academically talented freshman class in our history. We need to get back to our job of educating the next generation of Kentucky’s leaders.

Statement from Tom Jurich, University of Louisville Vice-President and Director of Athletics:

As I said yesterday, Coach Pitino has been truthful with us about this matter all along and we stand by him and his family during this process. He’s been diligent in his work as our men’s basketball coach, despite a number of false rumors, reported inaccuracies and the difficulties this personal matter that happened six years ago has placed on him and his family. I’m a million percent behind him. I have great confidence in the federal court system that this matter will be addressed appropriately. I expect Coach Pitino to be the head coach at the University of Louisville for a long time.

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Ramsey To Meet With AD On Pitino Disclosure

University of Louisville President James Ramsey had little to say publicly early Wednesday afternoon regarding basketball coach Rick Pitino’s admission that he had a brief affair with a woman who’s now charged with trying to extort him.

The Courier-Journal published details of a July police interview with Pitino in which he acknowledged having a sexual encounter six years ago with Karen Cunagin, now Karen Sypher, at a Louisville restaurant. Pitino also denied her allegation of rape; prosecutors last month declined to bring charges against him.

According to the report, Pitino also gave the woman three thousand dollars after she told him she was going to obtain an abortion and didn’t have insurance. His attorney says the coach believed the money was for medical insurance.

U of L President James Ramsey declined to comment Wednesday beyond a statement released the previous night.

“I have not had the opportunity to talk with anyone else. the athletic director was out this morning.   I’ll try to arrange to meet with him and talk with him and others,  Ramsey said during an unrelated press conference.

Ramsey said in his statement that he was “surprised” by details surrounding Pitino’s acknowldgement of the encounter but that his thoughts were with the coach’s family.

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Pitino Acknowledges Sypher Encounter In Police Interview

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino told police last month that he had consensual sex in a restaurant in 2003 with Karen Cunigan Sypher, who’s now accused of trying to extort the coach.                  Pitino file

That’s according to a Louisville Metro Police report obtained by the Courier-Journal under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

Pitino also said he gave the woman $3,000 for an abortion several weeks later when she told him she was pregnant.

The 56 year old Pitino was interviewed by police after Sypher, 49, claimed that Pitino raped her at the Louisville restaurant, Porcini, and later at another location.

Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney David Stengel announced last month that no charges would be filed against Pitino, saying Sypher’s allegations were “void of credibility and lacking any supporting evidence.”

Sypher fileSypher has pleaded not guilty in the extortion case and is awaiting trial.

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Prosecutor: Sypher Complaint 'Void Of Credibility"

Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney David Stengel says he has reviewed a videotaped criminal complaint made by Karen Sypher against University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and found it, in his words, “void of credibility and lacking any supporting evidence.”                                              pitino-file1

Sypher, who’s accused of trying to extort millions of dollars from Pitino by threatening to go public with personal information about him, filed a complaint recently with the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Sex Offenses Unit.

An attorney for Pitino says the coach was interviewed by police and passed an independent polygraph exam regarding Sypher’s claims. Sypher is the estranged wife of the U of L basketball team’s equipment manager. 

Stengel released a statement today saying no further action would be taken by his office.         

sypher-file1U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich also released a statement re-affirming his support for Pitino.

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Sypher Indicted In Extortion Case

A federal grand jury in Louisville has returned an indictment against Karen Sypher, accusing her of attempting to extort University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and lying to investigators about the case.

Sypher is the estranged wife of U of L basketball equipment manager Tim Sypher. Her arraignment in U.S. District Court is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

She allegedly threatened to go public with personal information about Pitino unless he agreed to provide her with money, cars and college tuition for her children. Specifics about the information she allegedly had regarding Pitino has not been publicly disclosed.

Here is a summary of the indictment released Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisville:
LOUISVILLE WOMAN CHARGED WITH EXTORTION AND MAKING FALSE STATEMENT TO THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

LOUISVILLE, KY – Acting United States Attorney Candace Hill, and Timothy D. Cox, Special Agent in Charge, Louisville Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, jointly announce that an indictment was returned today by a Federal Grand Jury sitting in the Louisville Division of the Western District of Kentucky against Karen Sypher, of Louisville, Kentucky. The Indictment charges that Sypher violated Title 18, United States Code Section 875(d), by willfully causing another person to transmit in interstate commerce, with the intent to extort money, a threat to injure the reputation of University of Louisville Basketball Coach Rick Pitino; and charges that she violated Title 18, United States Code Section 1001, by knowingly and willfully making materially false statements to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the course of their investigation into the extortion.

This Indictment follows a criminal Complaint previously filed on April 24, 2009. According to the Affidavit of Special Agent Steven J. Wight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that was filed in support of the Complaint, Sypher was responsible for telephone messages left on Pitino’s cell phone by an unidentified male in February, 2009. The telephone messages concerned unsubstantiated allegations of a personal nature, and threatened disclosure to the media. Sypher falsely denied to FBI agents that she knew who made the calls, but the caller was eventually identified and stated to agents that Sypher had prompted him to make the February calls, told him details to recite, and provided Mr. Pitino’s cell phone number. Those calls resulted in a series of events in which Sypher demanded money from Pitino.

Acting United States Attorney Candace G. Hill praised the efforts of the FBI for its diligence and professionalism in investigating these matters. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are mindful of their responsibilities to protect victims, no matter who they are, from the criminal conduct of others.

The extortion charge and lying to a federal agent charge carry combined potential penalties of imprisonment up to 7 years, a fine of up to $500,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 6 years. Assistant United States Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr. is prosecuting the case.

The indictment of a person by a Grand Jury is an accusation only and that person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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Sypher Charged With Extortion, Lying To FBI

Karen Sypher, the estranged wife of University of Louisville basketball team equipment manager Tim Sypher, has been charged in federal court with trying to extort money from U of L basketball coach Rick Pitino, and with lying to FBI during its investigation of the case.

Pitino disclosed the alleged extortion attempt last weekend.

Here is the text of a release about the charges from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

LOUISVILLE, KY – Acting United States Attorney Candace Hill, and Timothy D. Cox, Special Agent in Charge, Louisville Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, jointly announce that a criminal complaint was filed today in United States District Court, in Louisville, Kentucky, against Karen Sypher, of Louisville, Kentucky. The criminal complaint charges that Sypher violated Title 18, United States Code Section 875(d), by transmitting in interstate commerce, with the intent to extort money, a threat to injure the reputation of University of Louisville Basketball Coach Rick Pitino; and charges that she violated Title 18, United States Code Section 1001, for knowingly and willfully making materially false statements to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the course of their investigation into the extortion.

According to an Affidavit filed by Agent Steven J. Wight, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sypher was responsible for telephone messages left on Pitino’s cell phone by an unidentified male in February, 2009. The telephone messages concerned unsubstantiated allegations of a personal nature, and threatened disclosure to the media. Sypher falsely denied to FBI agents that she knew who made the calls, but the caller was identified and stated to agents that Sypher had prompted him to make the February calls, told him details to recite, and provided Mr. Pitino’s cell phone number. Those calls resulted in a series of events in which Sypher demanded money from Pitino.

Sypher’s attorney arranged for her to voluntarily appear before United States Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin this afternoon at 3:30 pm for her initial appearance in federal court.

Acting United States Attorney Candace G. Hill praised the efforts of the FBI for its diligence and professionalism in investigating these matters. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are mindful of their responsibilities to protect victims, no matter who they are, from the criminal conduct of others.

In the event of a conviction on these charges, Sypher faces a potential penalty of two years’ imprisonment for the extortion charge and five years’ imprisonment on the false-statement charge; a $250,000.00 fine as to each charge; and supervised release for a period of not more than 3 years as to each charge. Assistant United States Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr. is prosecuting the case.

A criminal Complaint is an accusation only and that person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Rick Pitino also issued a statement today through his attorney, Steve Pence:

“Last week, my client, Coach Rick Pitino, issued a statement disclosing that he had reported an extortion attempt against himself and his family to the FBI. Today, the United States brought criminal charges against the perpetrator of this scheme. While Coach Pitino takes no comfort in this prosecution and remains astonished by these events, it marks a turning point that allows him to focus with a clear mind once again on his family and his team. Coach Pitino is grateful for the support so many people have shown him in recent days. Given that this is a federal criminal prosecution in which we are cooperating, I have directed Coach Pitino not to comment any further about this case.”