Prosecutors unveil their case against Sypher - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Prosecutors unveil their case against Sypher

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

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Federal prosecutors have laid out in detail their case against Karen Cunagin Sypher, the woman at the center of an extortion case against UofL basketball coach Rick Pitino.

In a trial memorandum filed late Tuesday, Asst. U.S. Attorney John Kuhn argues that Sypher used family members, friends and her former attorney to try extort millions of dollars from Pitino.

In exchange for the money, Sypher would reportedly remain silent about a sexual encounter she had with Pitino in 2003 at Porcini restaurant.

A list of demands that Sypher wrote out on a UofL notepad will likely be a key piece of evidence in the trial.

The list was obtained by Fox 41 News last year. It asks for cars, tuition for her children and cash. It was presented to Pitino through Tim Sypher, the UofL basketball equipment manager and Karen Sypher's now ex-husband.

Karen Sypher told Fox 41 News at the time that Pitino voluntarily made her offers.

"He said, 'Karen what do you want,'" Sypher said during a 2009 interview. She claimed part of Pitino's offer to appease the situation included leaving the University of Louisville to take a job with Phoenix Suns.

Prosecutors say Sypher sought to harm Pitino's reputation by threatening to make public allegations that Pitino had committed a crime. 

Sypher faces charges of extortion, lying to the FBI and retaliating against a victim for going LMPD sex crimes detectives in 2009 with claims Pitino raped her during their 2003 sexual encounter. State prosecutors found those claims to be "void of credibility." Pitino was not charged and has maintained that the sex was consensual. He apologized to fans last year for his "indiscretion."

In a recent exclusive interview with Fox 41 News, Sypher said she had turned down several plea deals with prosecutors.

"I turned them down, even the very last one," she said, which came in March of this year.

Sypher has maintained her innocence and stood by claims that Pitino gave her $3000 for an abortion.

During that interview at her home, Sypher said she was concerned about her children. When asked whether she had thought about the possibility of going to prison, she replied: "Yes, I have thought of that. It gives me chills."

In this week's court filing, Kuhn also states that a former sexual harassment lawsuit involving Sypher shows "striking similarities" to her current case.

Prosecutors plan to introduce a 2001 sexual harassment lawsuit involving Sypher and her former boss, Leonard LeGrande.

In a sworn deposition, LeGrande says he had consensual sex with Sypher, but their relationship ended after she told him she was pregnant – a pregnancy she terminated.

Sypher later sued LeGrande for wrongful termination and sexual harassment.

Asst U.S. Attorney John Kuhn argues that case shows a pattern that Sypher has tried to extort money before on false claims.

Sypher's attorney, Jim Earhart, has not filed a response to the prosecution's memorandum. Karen Sypher has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Jury selection in the case is slated to start next week.

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