Concerns about Sypher's mental state - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Concerns about Sypher's mental state

The former attorney for a woman accused in a plot to extort $10 million from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was concerned about her mental state and had her evaluated by a psychiatrist, federal prosecutors said in court filings.

Karen Sypher's ex-attorney, Thomas Clay, "on many occasions" told prosecutors that he was concerned about his client's mental state, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said in a motion seeking a mental evaluation for Sypher.

U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson did not say when he would rule on the motion. The judge has previously declared the case to be complex and it's unknown when it could reach trial.

Clay, who resigned as Sypher's lawyer in July, also had her evaluated by a psychiatrist and asked federal prosecutors to seek a court-ordered competency exam, Kuhn wrote.

Kuhn's statements came in a motion filed after-hours Tuesday seeking a mental evaluation of Sypher. Her current attorney, James Earhart of Louisville, has opposed the request.  Sypher has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of trying to extort money from Pitino and lying to the FBI after a brief sexual encounter with Pitino at a Louisville restaurant in 2003. She is accused of demanding college tuition for her children, her house to be paid off, and $10 million.

Clay declined comment Wednesday morning about Kuhn's statements.  Earhart was in court Wednesday morning and not immediately available for comment.

Kuhn's motion doesn't specify what the psychiatrist concluded about Sypher, only that a preliminary report was issued.  That report, along with other documentation, has been turned over under seal to the judge.

Kuhn said the government isn't saying she is suffering from a mental disease that renders her incompetent. But, Kuhn said, federal agents are obligated to "bring persistent irrational behavior" to the court's attention.  "Instead, the United States asserts only that there is reasonable cause to believe that she may be incompetent," Kuhn wrote.

Prosecutors first requested a mental exam of Sypher in August, alleging that she may be "so mentally incompetent" as to not understand the legal proceedings or be unable to assist in her own defense.

Earhart responded that prosecutors aren't entitled under the law and circumstances in the case to have his client undergo a psychological examination.  Prosecutors also reiterated a request to order Sypher and her attorney not to make public evidence turned over in the case. Kuhn cited pretrial publicity and said Sypher has actively sought to publicize her story.

Earhart has asked the judge to deny the request, saying neither he nor Sypher has made public any evidence provided by prosecutors.

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