Sypher turned down plea deals, scared of prison - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Sypher turned down plea deals, scared of prison

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By Bennett Haeberle WDRB-TV Fox 41 News   bhaeberle@fox41.com

LOUISVILLE, KY -- The woman charged with trying to extort money from UofL basketball coach Rick Pitino says she gets "chills" thinking about the possibility of going to prison. Karen Cunagin Sypher also says she has turned down repeated plea deals from prosecutors.

In an exclusive interview with Fox 41 News, Sypher says she is prepared for her upcoming trial, which is set for July 26th in U.S. District Court in Louisville. She knows it could end with a prison sentence.

Sypher says she's more upset that it also could mean she gets to spend less time with her children.

"I have thought about it. It gives me chills," Sypher said.

It's been widely known – though not reported by members of the press – that Sypher was offered plea deals to avoid a criminal trial.

When asked directly about the plea offers, Sypher said there have been "several."

Sypher initially said some of the offers were "very recent" and later clarified that the last plea deal from prosecutors came in March of this year.

"I have always said no. Even to the very last one," Sypher said.

Repeated calls to the U.S. Attorney's office in Louisville were not immediately returned.

Sypher is charged with trying to extort cars, tuition for her sons, and later $10 million from Pitino. Court records show the alleged extortion attempt grew out of a sexual encounter Sypher had with Pitino in 2003 at Porcini restaurant in Louisville.

Sypher went to police last summer with claims Pitino raped her and gave her $3000 for an abortion. Prosecutors found her claims were "void of credibility." Pitino has admitted his "indiscretion" and claimed the encounter was consensual.

On Monday, Judge Charles Simpson III rejected Sypher's motion to move the trial to either Owensboro or Bowling Green. Sypher's attorney cited pre-trial publicity as the reason for his request. Simpson found the news coverage had not been excessive. 

"We are just mostly concerned at this time prior to the trial, (that it) should be innocent until proven guilty, and not guilty until proven innocent," Sypher said.

Her messy divorce from UofL basketball equipment manager Tim Sypher has meant she's spent less time with the five-year old daughter they share.

"I can't get my life back. What happened seven years ago... that's something I will have to live with," she said.

If convicted on all charges, Sypher could spend up to 26 years in prison. Her mother, Judy Cunagin, said of the past year and half:

"It's been like a living hell. It truly has. I see my family split apart," said Judy Cunagin.

When asked what she thinks about the public perception that she brought much her hardships on herself, Judy Cunagin interjected, saying: "I would say this is not true. Please keep us in your prayers."

When later pressed, Sypher said, "Oh absolutely. Everyone has their opinion. Everyone should have their opinions."

Sypher faces several charges, including extortion and lying to the FBI. She maintains her innocence and has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

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