Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Karen Sypher convicted of extorting Rick Pitino

According to Associated Press reports, previous model Karen Sypher, 50, and Louisville University men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino, 57, are near the end of their year-long lawful battle. Sypher was found guilty of 3 counts of extortion, two counts of lying to the FBI and one count of retaliating against a witness. The catalyst for the charges was Sypher’s series of tries to extort millions in hush money from Pitino after a 2003 sexual encounter. Sypher claimed Pitino raped her during the encounter, but Pitino did not faces such charges. Sypher faces a maximum sentence of 26 years in prison, but federal guidelines will likely decrease the penalty.

Frightening calls and letters haunted Pitino

Court records indicate that Rick Pitino received numerous telephone messages and two letters. Demands for cash and gifts were made in exchange for Karen Sypher’s silence. ”This was nothing more than a pure shakedown of Richard Pitino,” attorney Marisa Ford told jurors within the case. Attorney Marisa Ford said that “This was nothing more than a pure shakedown of Richard Pitino”. Sypher’s defense maintained that she was being unfairly demonized and that Pitino was receiving preferential treatment due to his fame.

Pitino thinks it was very ‘unfortunate’

In a emotionally charged six hours of testimony, Pitino described his late-night encounter with Sypher in a closed and deserted Italian restaurant. The ‘unfortunate’ sexual dalliance was consensual, he said. He wrestled with emotion as he described to the jury how difficult it had been for him to eventually tell his family about the affair which had no witnesses.

Sypher did not take the stand

Though Karen Sypher didn’t give testimony, a video interview was aired for the jury. The Pitino rape allegation came from that footage. She also corroborated Pitino’s story that he had later paid her future husband Tim Sypher – a one-time Pitino assistant – $ 3,000. Mr. Sypher delivered the cash to Karen Sypher (then Karen Wise), and the two eventually married. The couple at times saw Pitino at Louisville-area events. Karen Sypher claims Pitino gave her the money for an abortion, a claim he has denied.

A man on Pitino’s line in ‘09

AP reports indicate that Pitino revealed in jury testimony that he also received menacing phone calls from an unidentified man in February 2009. An unknown male confronted him in much the very same fashion he’d been threatened by Karen Sypher’s previous extortion attempts. “He mentioned the word rape. I got very sick to my stomach,” Pitino said. Pitino did not report any of this to authorities, as he wanted to exercise his own form of damage control first.

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Associated Press

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