Karen Sypher Convicted in Rick Pitino Extortion Case
The jury convicted Karen Sypher, 50, on charges that she threatened to reveal an affair she had had with Pitino, if he didn't pay her hush money. Sypher was also found guilty of charges that she lied to the FBI about the matter as well as falsely charging that Pitino had raped her, when he balked at paying.
Sypher could face as much as 26 years in prison. However, her attorney, Jim Earhart, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he expected a sentence of seven to eight years, if she were convicted. She will be sentenced October 27.
Pitino, the first men's coach to take three different schools to the Final Four, acknowledged the affair with Sypher, but steadfastly denied that he raped her.
Pitino acknowledged during six hours of testimony that drew a standing room only audience during the eight day trial that he and Sypher had a tryst at Porcini restaurant after it closed for the night on July 31, 2003.
The Cardinals' coach said Sypher made the initial advance toward him and that the total encounter lasted less than 15 seconds. After their liaison, Pitino testified, Sypher drove him home, asking him for basketball tickets while chatting about her family and telling him that she was very fertile.
Several weeks later, Pitino testified that Sypher called him to say that she was pregnant and that he was the father. He said he was skeptical of her claim that he was her baby's father.
During his testimony, Pitino said he received two anonymous messages in February, 2009, where a male caller said he knew that the coach had raped Sypher twice, once at the restaurant and again three weeks after their Porcini encounter at her future husband's condo.
Pitino denied raping her at any time as well as denying that he had threatened to put the woman and her children "in concrete shoes in a river," if she didn't agree to have an abortion.
"That is insulting. I would never use that verbiage," said Pitino, who acknowledged that he paid Sypher $3,000 after she told him that she had no money for counseling or health care.
As the jury's verdict was read, Sypher closed her eyes, then opened them and stared at the ceiling. One of her sons sitting in the front row with other family members wept openly.
The jury deliberated for slightly more than five hours over two days. The trial lasted eight days.
"This was nothing more than a pure shakedown of Richard Pitino," Assistant U.S. attorney Marisa Ford told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday.
Defense attorney James Earhart told jurors Sypher had been "villainized" during the trial. He argued that the government's case proved that "rules don't apply to the privileged" like Pitino.