Fox 41 obtains calls at center of case against Sypher
Three brief phone calls launched a firestorm of controversy and a federal investigation into whether U of L Basketball Coach Rick Pitino was being extorted. Fox 41's Candyce Clifft was first to expose this story, and now she's obtained the calls at the center of the case against Karen Sypher.
The three messages to Pitino's cell phone are only about fifty seconds in total, but they were powerful enough for the coach to report them to the FBI. The FBI says the calls were made by Sypher's friend Lester Goetzinger on February 26th and 28th.
The first call recites Sypher's criminal allegations against Pitino and ends with the caller saying he'd call back. The second call recites more allegations and concludes:
"Why would you do somethin' like that? But, naw, I'm not out to get money. I don't want no part of that, but I want you to do the right thing by that woman. You need to do the right thing, that's all."
AT&T cell phone records show: the day of the first two calls, Karen Sypher's son Jacob gets a call from Tim Sypher, the Cardinals' equipment manager and longtime Pitino assistant.
Jacob tells Fox 41 News, "All he said was you need to come down to my office right now. I'm going to lose my job."
Jacob says he took his mother to the Yum Center where Karen Sypher and Pitino had a meeting. Karen Sypher says, "He played the tapes of the gentleman. I think there were two phone calls that were made. He said, "Do you know and are you responsible for this?"
Sypher says she told Pitino she didn't know the caller.
The third call came a couple of days later, and the caller threatens to make public the allegations: "Within two weeks, the media will be notified of all the details and evidence of (the allegations)."
The next week, on March 6th, Sypher made a list of demands. The handwritten list is also evidence in the case. Sypher says Pitino demanded the list.
The FBI says Pitino reported the alleged extortion in late March, and on March 22nd, Sypher hired an attorney. An FBI affidavit says, when interviewed, Sypher first denied knowing the caller and later said she recognized the voice as that of Lester Goetziner, a longtime family friend. She claims she didn't know he made the calls until the FBI played them again for her several times.
The affidavit says Sypher admitted giving Goetzinger Pitino's personal cell phone number. Goetzinger testified before the grand jury that indicted Sypher. He made a deal with prosecutors that will let him avoid charges.
Sypher was indicted May 12th, and no trial date has been set.