Louisville men's basketball head coach Rick Pitino and Karen Sypher. Sypher has been convicted of extortion, lying to the FBI and retaliating against a witness, according to the Associated Press.
Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino, left, and Karen Sypher (Photo Credit: CC BY/Homer Owens/EKB News)

The Associated Press reports a new twist in the legal battle between Louisville men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino, 57, and former car show model Karen Sypher, 50, of Louisville, Ky. Sypher was found guilty of three counts of extortion, two counts of lying to the FBI and one count of retaliating against a witness. This stemmed from Sypher’s attempts to obtain millions of dollars from Pitino in exchange for keeping a 2003 sexual tryst quiet. Sypher originally claimed that Pitino raped her, but Pitino denied the claim and was not charged. Sypher faces a maximum sentence of 26 years in prison, but federal guidelines will likely decrease the penalty.

Rick Pitino received threatening phone calls and letters

According to reports, Rick Pitino received multiple phone calls and two letters. Demands for cash and gifts were made in exchange for Karen Sypher’s silence. Assistant U.S. attorney Marisa Ford told jurors in the case that “This was nothing more than a pure shakedown of Richard Pitino.” Karen Sypher’s defense attorney James Earhart claimed that his client had been “villainized” during the trial, and that Pitino had received privileged treatment during the proceedings.

Pitino described the sexual encounter as ‘unfortunate’

During his six hours of testimony, Pitino reportedly held the attention of the jury as he responded to questions regarding his admitted sexual encounter with Sypher in an empty Italian restaurant after hours. Pitino described his 15-second tryst with Sypher as “unfortunate” and consensual. 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 Sypher didn’t testify, a never-released television interview was played for jurors. In the interview, Karen Sypher made the Pitino rape allegation. 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 money to Karen Sypher (then Karen Wise), and the two eventually married. The couple occasionally saw Pitino at Louisville-area events. Pitino insisted that Karen Sypher had wanted the money for counseling and general medical needs, but Sypher claims she told Pitino she needed the money for an abortion.

Alleged rape, circa 2009

AP reports indicate that Pitino revealed in jury testimony that he also received menacing phone calls from an unidentified man in February 2009. As previous phone calls and letters had done, Pitino was threatened with exposure of his sexual encounter with Karen Sypher. “He mentioned the word rape. I got very sick to my stomach,” Pitino said. However, Pitino did not report these calls or the initial event to the authorities for another two months, as he “tried to contain the damaging information.”

Sources:

Associated Press http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/38574025/ns/sports-college_basketball/

Related Video: the Pitino/Sypher affair and the morality clause

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