Sypher trial Day 3 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Sypher trial Day 3

Witness: Rick Pitino
University of Louisville Men's Basketball Coach
Roughly
2:00 p.m.
Part I

On Tuesday, July 28, 2010, University of Louisville Men's Basketball Coach Rick Pitino began his first day of testimony in the Karen Sypher extortion trial.

No other witness has been more anticipated. No other witness has garnered more attention or press. Ever since August 11 of last year, when Pitino admitted to a sexual indiscretion with Sypher, he has had to deal with the public shame of his connection to this case. Today – and probably for days afterward – he will have to face it in anew, and in much greater detail.

The courtroom was packed when Pitino testified – so packed that a crowd of onlookers lined the back wall. They stood, simply because there were no seats.

"Your honor, the United States calls Rick Pitino."

Pitino strode into the courtroom wearing a black suit, a white shirt and a bright red tie (red for UofL?).

The prosecutor began by asking him about his success as the UofL basketball coach.

"The greatest thing about college basketball is you all start with the same dream," he said, pointing to the NCAA tournament.

"It's called March Madness," he added later. "It's what we all dream about and look forward to."

He recounted his career – how he had been to the Final Four. How he had won the national championship in 1996.

The prosecution then asked Pitino to explain how he had first met Karen Sypher.

It was July 2003, Pitino said, when he was playing golf with a foursome.

"We decided the losing team buys dinner," he said. As it turned out, he said, he was on the losing team, so he took his friends to Porcini.

Pitino testified that, while he was at the restaurant, Karen Sypher ran up to him with her cell phone and asked him to talk to her son, who was waiting on the other end. Pitino said he agreed to do so.

"I said, ‘Happy birthday, study hard, stay in school.'"

As the night wore on, Pitino said, Sypher continued to stay near him.

"She came up to the bar and sat next to me and I believe I bought her a drink," he said. Of their conversation, he added, "it was just small talk, and it went back and forth."

Pitino said that when Tim Coury – the restaurant owner – left, he thought he and Sypher were alone. He said he didn't know until six months ago that his personal assistant, Vinnie Tatum, was waiting on the other side of a dividing wall.

At this point, Pitino testified that "unfortunate things happened." He said Sypher "opened up my pants" and the two engaged in sexual relations "very briefly."

The prosecution stopped Pitino's description at this point and asked him to move forward in his narrative – telling him that they would return to this incident later.

Pitino testified that 2-3 weeks later he received a phone call from Sypher.

"She said she missed her period," Pitino testified. He said he told her, "It can't be me."

"I didn't believe at the time that it was my child," he said. "She said she didn't know what she was going to do."

Pitino testified that Sypher told him she didn't have health insurance and needed $3,000. He said he gave it to her – and found out later that she used it to get an abortion.

He said Tim Sypher – who would later become Karen Sypher's wife – agreed to step in and help.

"He was supposed to take her to counseling in Cincinnati," Pitino said.

Some time later, he said Karen Sypher and Tim Sypher were married.

The prosecution then moved the timeline several years forward, to Feb. 26, 2009 – the day Pitino received his first threatening message on his cell phone (Pitino would later learn that the message was left by Lester Goetzinger, a man the prosecution claims left several such messages at the behest of Karen Sypher).

Pitino received two messages on that day – messages in which the caller accused him of raping Karen Sypher and forcing her to get an abortion.

"I just got sick to my stomach when that was said on the telephone," Pitino testified.

He said he called Tim Sypher that afternoon and told him he and Karen should come to his office as soon as possible.

"I not only felt threatened, I was frightened," Pitino said. "I didn't know who this person was."

Pitino testified that he did have one clue: the person who left the message used the term "Cincinnata" (instead of Cincinnati), which made him suspect the caller was from Kentucky.

When he heard the second message that day, Pitino said, "it meant that somebody has told this person a lot of lies."

Pitino testified that he met with Tim and Karen Sypher in his office at the Yum! Center. He then played the recorded messages for Karen and asked her what they meant.

"She accused me of putting somebody up to making these phone calls," Pitino said. He added that she accused him of pushing her into an abortion she didn't want.

Pitino said, deep down, he knew what was going to happen.

"This person on this phone call is gonna blackmail me," he said.

The prosecution asked Pitino if he knew that Karen Sypher had recorded this meeting. He testified that he did not at the time – that he only found out about the recordings a couple of months ago.

At this point, the prosecution played the recording of that meeting for the jury.

The prosecution asked Pitino what was going through his mind at this time.

"I didn't know what to think," Pitino said. "I was extremely frightened."

"Looking back on it today, I feel kind of foolish," he said, adding that he should have known all along that Karen Sypher had arranged for the phone calls to be made herself.

"She was acting like somebody who knew something about it."

However, Pitino testified that at the time, he believed her.

He said that he was embarrassed that the caller would accuse him of rape, and it frightened him that the charge was being made.

"I have difficulty speaking rudely to a woman – let alone use the word rape – so you can understand what that did to me," he told the jury.

While the recording of that meeting was played for the jury, a brief exchange between Sypher and Pitino could be heard:

Karen Sypher: I know. You don't care because you're a man and you have a family.

Rick Pitino: How can I help you? How can I help you? Tell me how I can help you.

When asked by the prosecution what he meant by this, Pitino said he was hoping he could get Sypher counseling.

Pitino said later that he realized that during this meeting, Sypher's words were "contrived" and she was "playing to this tape recording."

Also on the tape, Pitino could be heard telling Sypher that he could "make her life easier."

Prosecution: What did you mean by this?

"I'm just trying to find out who made these phone calls," Pitino said of that statement. "I'm willing to say anything at this point."

During that taped meeting, an angry discussion broke out between Rick Pitino and the Syphers regarding a college fund that had been set up for the Syphers' daughter. Pitino told the jury Tim Sypher was supposed to receive a Christmas bonus, but he asked Pitino to instead give the money to the fund. Pitino agreed, and brought this up in his meeting with Karen Sypher. When she learned of it, she accused her husband, Tim Sypher, of hiding financial secrets from her and told him she wanted to be separated.

The prosecutor asked Pitino if he had any idea before this meeting that Tim and Karen Sypher were having marriage problems.

"I did not," Pitino said.

Pitino also told the jury that the accusations in those threatening phone messages were false, adding that, "I could never rape a woman."

Pitino testified that, at the conclusion of that first meeting, he asked Tim and Karen Sypher to meet him again at the same place that evening.

He testified that, at that second meeting, "I had her once again listen to the phone messages."

"I'm was just trying to find out who made these phone calls…and I'm not getting anywhere with the second meeting as well."

Pitino told the jury that, toward the end of this meeting, "some bizarre things happened." Karen Sypher became more animated. She said she wanted to live in a home in Lake Forest. She wanted a new car. She wanted her son to have a car.

At the end of the meeting, Pitino testified, Karen Sypher started crying. But then, he said, the "strangest thing" happened. He said she "turned off the tears" and told him that, "a couple of years ago, you bought all of the wives pocket books, and this year, I never got my pocketbook."

Pitino testified that he assured Karen Sypher that he would take care of it. He added that he left this meeting with "nothing accomplished."

The testimony then turned toward the third threatening phone message Pitino received on Feb. 28, 2009. He said he was at the Yum! Center when he first heard it.

"Well, I knew why he was doing it," Pitino said of the caller. "He kept mentioning that word [rape] because he was going to blackmail me."

Pitino said that at this point, he felt it was necessary to seek legal protection. He testified that on March 2, 2009, he contacted Lexington attorney Bill Rambicure, who told Pitino to stop all communication with Karen Sypher -- that he was being "shaken down" and to go to the police immediately.

"I said, ‘Bill, I need to get through this tournament," Pitino recalled. "I owe it to these guys to get through the tournament first."

On March 6, 2009, Pitino traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia for a game – a game he called "the most significant game this season."

He testified that, while he was in his hotel on that particular trip, Tim Sypher came to his room. Pitino said he was "very nervous" and handed him a sealed envelope.

Pitino testified that Tim Sypher told him, "I don't know if I want to be here when [you] open it."

The envelope contained a letter – signed by Karen Sypher – demanding a number of things from Pitino, including college for her child, a car, a house, $3,000 a month for five years and a $75,000 payment (if Pitino ever leaves UofL).

The letter concluded with a statement. "If all is accepted, I will protect Rick Pitino's name for life." It also demanded that all of the listed items should be placed in Karen Sypher's name only.

Pitino said the implication of the letter – both for himself and Tim Sypher – was unmistakable.

"I knew when I got it that their marriage was now over," Pitino testified. "I thought it was blackmail and I thought it was…if I did not comply, she was going to damage my reputation."

Pitino testified that Tim Sypher was told to "think long and hard" about what he had done – that this constituted attempted blackmail. He said he later received a text message from Tim Sypher that night which read: Coach, I'm sorry. I love my wife. I love my family, and I'm going to stay with them.

On March 7, 2009, UofL won the game, though Pitino testified that it was "very difficult." He added that, "it was a tremendous victory for us" and that it constituted a, "major, major coup." Now the team was bound for the Big East Championship in New York.

It was around this time, Pitino testified, that he received a call on his cell phone from Karen Sypher's mother.

"She introduced herself and said, ‘Well I just want to know when my grandson is going to get his automobile.'" Pitino said.

Pitino testified that he told her that people don't talk on the phone this way. He said her reply was that the Syphers knew powerful people too. He testified that he ended the call by saying, "Maam, I'm going to hang up this phone. No disrespect."

As a result of winning the Big East Tournament, Pitino received a cash bonus. He testified that he decided to give $10,000 each to three of his employees – one of whom was Tim Sypher, whose wife had been demanding a car for her son.

"I just said to him, ‘Tim, I'm not buying him an automobile. Here's your bonus. You buy him and automobile'" Pitino recalled.

He testified that Tim purchased the car with the boy.

"I believe they both picked it out," Pitino said.

Pitino testified that, not long after that, he received a letter from Karen Sypher's attorney, in which, for the first time, Sypher accused him of raping her, as well as forcing her to have an abortion.

His reaction?

"I knew at this point that anything was going to be said," Pitino said, adding that he didn't know "what this lawyer was up to."

"I did not force myself on her," Pitino told the jury. "I didn't force her to get an abortion…she made the decision to get the abortion on her own."

Pitino testified that he once again turned to his attorney, Bill Rambicure, who told him that, "you need to go to the police. It's time."

It was at this time, Pitino testified, that he decided to approach the Kentucky Attorney General's office.

Meanwhile, Rambicure and a business associate of Pitino's agreed to attend another meeting with Karen Sypher.

"I told them I was not going to this meeting," Pitino testified, but "Bill Rambicure wanted to go from a fact finding standpoint."

"Both people came back and said it was the most bizarre meeting they had ever been a part of," Pitino told the jury.

Pitino said Rambicure told him that the meeting consisted of both Tim and Karen Sypher "screaming" and yelling obscenities. Rambicure said the Sypher family now wanted $10 million, but would settle for $5.5 million.

The prosecutor then moved the timeline forward to the months of April, May and June 2009. At this point, Karen Sypher's allegations began to be reported in the media.

"I was obviously dealing with problems at home myself," Pitino testified. He also said that, "I had to be truthful to the university."

He said he met with everyone "within a 48 hour period" and he told them "simultaneously" what was going on.

In June 2007, Karen Sypher went to the Louisville Metro Police with the two allegations of rape against Rick Pitino.

"I think I was aware of it, as most of the media was," Pitino testified.

Pitino said he was interviewed by Sgt. Andy Abbot of the LMPD's sex crimes unit. The police determined that Sypher's accusations were "void of credibility" and the investigation was closed.

Nevertheless, Pitino testified, that didn't stop reports of the alleged rapes from appearing in the New York Post, the Daily News, on Inside Edition and on the local networks in Louisville.

As Pitino's testimony came to a close, the prosecution asked him to finally explain, in detail, what happened at Porcini on the night of July 31, 2009.

"Well, ignorance on my part led up to it," Pitino said. "I'm a married man and I should never have put myself in that situation."

He called his sexual relationship with Sypher a "mistake on my part."

He said that as people were leaving the restaurant, Sypher sat down next to him and started rubbing his leg. Tim Coury, the restaurant owner, left.

"After that, she said, ‘why don't we go over there and finish our wine,'" Pitino recalled.

He testified that they moved to another part of the room.

"Then she opened my pants," Pitino said. He said she asked if he had a condom, stating that her husband would "look at her and she got pregnant."

"Our encounter lasted less than 15 seconds," Pitino said, adding that he backed out after he "got very scared."

Pitino testified that when she left the restaurant, "she was in a good mood. She was talking again, non-stop" about her children and basketball.

"I don't even know what color miniskirt she had on," Pitino said, adding that she always wore miniskirts.

As the prosecutor closed out Pitino's testimony for the day, she asked him if he raped Karen Sypher at Porcini on July 31, 2003.

"Absolutely not," Pitino said.

Did he rape her during a meeting in Tim Sypher's condo?

"Absolutely not," Pitino said.

Did he force Karen Sypher to get an abortion?

"Absolutely not," Pitino said.

Did he threaten to put Karen Sypher or her children "in concrete" at any point in time?

"That is so insulting – it's beyond comprehension, it's so insulting," Pitino said. "I would never say anything like that." 

Court was adjourned shortly after 5:00. Pitino is expected to be cross examined by Sypher's attorneys tomorrow.


Witness: Vincent "Vinnie" Tatum
Personal assistant of Rick Pitino in 2003

Vincent "Vinnie" Tatum might be thought of as Rick Pitino's "enabler." He acted as Pitino's chauffeur, his scheduler, his secretary, his gofer. Tatum's official title in 2003 was "personal assistant."

On Wednesday morning, he held the title of "witness."

Tatum is a stout man. He was bald and wore a white, button-up shirt, with glasses.

And like so many of the prior witnesses, he was at the Porcini restaurant on the night of July 31, 2003. But Tatum's story is somewhat unique. He was supposed to be the designated driver for Rick Pitino that night, but that didn't work out. He was also the only other person with Pitino and Sypher in the restaurant when Sypher claims she was raped.

The prosecutor began his examination by asking Tatum how he came to be at Porcini that night. Tatum said Pitino had asked Ron Carmichael if he wanted to join him for dinner that evening. Carmichael agreed, and Pitino asked Tatum to drive.

They made reservations for five that evening: Ron Carmichael, Rick Pitino, Vinnie Tatum and Reggie Theus. (It was not clear to this writer who the fifth party was.)

"We got to Porcini," Tatum said. "There were some people at the bar that we knew."

Tatum testified that Pitino and his party had a drink – maybe two – then had dinner. After dinner, they returned to the bar area.

The prosecution asked Tatum how he knew all the folks in Pitino's party.

"I just know all their names and faces," Tatum said. "Some of ‘em I'm better friends with than others."

The topic of testimony then turned toward Karen Sypher.

Tatum said he saw her for the first time that night.

"She was there when we got there," he said. "I saw her leave and come back."

He said when she returned to the restaurant the second time, she was driving a white Escalade. She then walked into the restaurant and made her way to the bar.

"She was talking and having cocktails," he said. "She was by herself and eventually made it over to our table." He added that she was "kind of flirty and giggly."

Tatum said he also witnessed the alleged incident between Glenn Hogan and Karen Sypher. He said it occurred over a period of 20-30 minutes, and that over that time period, Hogan lifted her skirt several times, each time higher than the previous. At one point, Tatum says, Hogan groped her.

"There was no slapping of the wrist," Tatum said, adding that Sypher at no point told him to stop.

He added that Sypher did not leave after this.

Tatum testified that, as the night wore on, people began to leave the bar. Eventually, he said the owner, Tim Coury (see previous testimony), told him he was leaving and everyone else could go through the self-locking emergency exit when they were ready to go.

Then Coury left – and Tatum was left alone in the restaurant with Pitino and Sypher.

As Pitino's designated driver, Tatum testified that he felt it was his duty to wait on him so he could drive him home. While Pitino and Sypher were alone in the bar, Tatum waited in the restaurant portion of the building – with only a six-foot high brick wall separating him from Pitino and Sypher.

"Did you fall asleep?" the prosecution asked.

Tatum replied that he did not.

Did he hear any sound of screaming or scuffling?

"I heard nothing," Tatum said.

Eventually, he saw Pitino and Sypher get into Sypher's white Escalade and drive away.

"I stuck around for an hour or so, not knowing if he was coming back," Tatum testified, reminding everyone that he was the designated driver who was supposed to drive Pitino home that night. He testified that the next day, he and Pitino were going on a private flight to Saratoga for a cocktail party. Pitino delayed that flight for a few hours – Tatum said he didn't know why.

Tatum said the next time he saw Sypher was at the "Friends of the ‘Ville" Christmas party – again at Porcini – and she was wearing the same white miniskirt.

Shortly after this statement, it was time for James Earhart – Sypher's attorney – to question Tatum.

Of particular interest to Earhart was the amount of alcohol consumed at Porcini on the evening of July 31, 2003. He pointed to two receipts – one marked "Coach" and one marked "The Boys" that made up Rick Pitino's party. Together, he said, they amounted to roughly $600 – about $500 of which was alcohol.

Tatum pointed out that Pitino often bought drinks for people outside of his party.

"From 8:30 on, the only activity consisted of milling around at the bar and consuming alcohol?" Earhart asked.

"Correct," Tatum said.

Earhart then began to question Tatum's memory of Sypher. Why did he remember her so well?

"She had a white miniskirt on," Tatum said.

Earhart then asked why Tatum was able to remember the car, adding that, "the car wasn't wearing a miniskirt."

Earhart also zeroed in on Tatum's recollection of Glenn Hogan messing with Sypher's skirt.

"Is that the typical type of behavior that you would observe with Rick Pitino and his friends out in the public?" Earhart asked.

Tatum said that it was not – and that's why it stood out.

"It was something I won't forget," he said.

Earhart pointed out details of the incident that Tatum said he recalled over the 20-30 minute time span.

"So you kept watching?" he demanded.

"I couldn't help but not to," Tatum replied.

"So you kept watching and having fun with it?" Earhart asked, pointing out at the same time that Tatum is not married and doesn't have daughters.

"Yes," Tatum said.

"Is it your opinion that women should have to endure that type of behavior?" Earhart asked.

"Not if they like it," Tatum said.

Later, Earhart would address Tatum's testimony that he was in the same restaurant with Sypher and Pitino when the sexual activity occurred, but claimed to hear nothing.

"It's your testimony that you weren't passed out on the other side of that bar while these events occurred?" Earhart asked.

Tatum said that he was not.

"So you didn't see Rick Pitino force himself on Karen Sypher?" Earhart demanded.

"I didn't see nothing," Tatum said. 

Tatum's testimony ended some time later.

Witness: Jeff Stebbins
Friend of Rick Pitino

After Timothy Coury stepped down, Jeff Stebbins took the stand.

Stebbins is a real estate agent – and a friend of Rick Pitino. He was wearing a button-up shirt with blue and white stripes. He had glasses, and a receding hairline.

"Are you a golfer?" assistant U.S. District Attorney John Kuhn asked.

"I attempt to be," Stebbins replied.

The prosecutor then asked Stebbins if he knew Rick Pitino.

"Yes – I do know Rick Pitino."

Were they close friends?

"No," Stebbins replied. He went on to say that they know each other, they talk about golf sometimes, but he's never been out to dinner with Pitino, or to his house.

Stebbins said that – like so many of the witnesses before him – he was at the Porcini restaurant on the night of July 31, 2003 (the night Karen Sypher claims she was raped by Pitino.) He said he remembered seeing Sypher there. Specifically, he remembered her walking out of the restaurant with another man, then returning sometime later.

What was she wearing?

"High heel shoes, a short skirt and a top," Stebbins told the prosecutor. He added that the reason he remembers this so well is because, "she was striking looking" and "I noticed."

He also testified that he noticed the alleged incident that took place between Sypher and Glenn Hogan, a friend of Pitino's.

"She had her legs crossed and Glenn put his hands on her thigh and flipped her skirt up," Stebbins testified. He said Sypher "giggled" and Sypher did not appear to be angry at all. Stebbins said Hogan asked Sypher, "What have you got under there?"

Moments later, James Earhart, Karen Sypher's attorney, rose for his cross examination of Stebbins.

Earhart employed the same tactic on Stebbins that he used on the other witnesses who say the remember the events that took place that night: he challenged their memory. Earhart demanded that Stebbins describe the attire of other patrons of the restaurant that night.

"I don't think I can describe anyone right now," Stebbins said.

So how could he claim to remember what Sypher was wearing?

"She was different in her attire," Stebbins testified. "That drew my attention to her as she walked out the door."

Stebbins then re-examined the skirt-lifting incident that allegedly took place between Glenn Hogan and Karen Sypher.

Earhart chastised Stebbins for allegedly smiling during his recollection of this event. He asked Stebbins whether he thought this type of behavior was offensive.

Stebbins replied that he did not, but he did think it was "objectionable."

"Is that typical of how you see Rick Pitino and his friends treat women?" Earhart asked.

Stebbins later replied that he didn't think Pitino knew of the incident.

"Were you there when Rick Pitino forced himself on Karen Sypher?" Earhart demanded.

"I didn't know Rick Pitino forced himself on Karen Sypher," Stebbins countered, adding that he left the restaurant long before Sypher claims those events occurred. 

The testimony of Jeff Stebbins concluded moments later.

Witness: Timothy Coury
Owner of Porcini restaurant
Roughly 9:45 a.m.

Karen Sypher was talkative when she entered the U.S. District courtroom Wednesday morning. Dressed in a white, button up shirt and a black skirt (knee-high), she said "Hi!" to someone (or perhaps everyone) in the pews as she burst through the doors and walked through the aisle to get to her seat at the defendant's table.

She smiled and said "Hi!" to the prosecutors then took her seat.

There was a brief delay after the jurors were seated. Judge Charles R. Simpson tried to make the best of it.

"Back in judges' school, they didn't teach us any jokes," he said, adding that he hoped someone could tell some good ones and provide some entertainment.

Moments later, Timothy Coury was sworn in as the next witness – a man with glasses, a mustache, gray sport coat and a white shirt.

Coury testified that he is the owner of the Porcini restaurant on Frankfort Avenue – the location where Rick Pitino says he engaged in consensual sexual behavior with Karen Sypher (and where Sypher claims she was first raped by Pitino on July 31, 2003).

Coury said he'd been in the restaurant business for over 18 years and opened Porcini in Feb. 1992.

Assistant U.S. District Prosecutor John Kuhn asked Coury to explain how he met Rick Pitino, whom Coury refers to as a "good friend."

"I met Rick, oh, 20 or 21 years ago when he was coach at UofK," Coury testified.

"I had an idea of doing a restaurant with him," he said. "He didn't know me from Adam."

Coury testified that he wrote Pitino about the idea. The two of them met several times, but Coury decided not to follow through with the project.

"It never happened, but we stayed friends because of it," Coury said.

The prosecution then showed Coury photos of the interior and exterior of Porcini – and asked him to recall the evening of July 31, 2003.

Coury said that Pitino and some of his associates arrived at Porcini for a dinner celebration to mark the recent hiring of Reggie Theus as a new University of Louisville assistant coach. Some of the other folks who were there? Louisville attorney Bart Adams. Ron Carmichael, Vinnie Tatum.

He added that Michael Przybylbk, an executive at The Courier-Journal (and a prior witness in this case – see yesterday's blog) was also there, though not with Pitino's party.

The prosecution asked if Przybylbk was a regular.

"He was then," Coury replied. "He's not now. I miss his business, by the way."

The response elicited laughter throughout the court.

Coury testified that Pitino had a drink at the bar, then went and had dinner when everyone arrived. After dinner, "they slowly migrated to the bar, I think."

What was Coury doing during all this?

"I'm seeing people," he testified. "I'm talking to people. I'm checking on people – typical restaurant duties."

"It was a busy night," he added. "There were people I did know and people I didn't know."

The prosecution then asked if he remembered seeing Karen Sypher in the restaurant that evening. He said that he did.

"I remember she had a white miniskirt on," he said.

Then the prosecution began to question Coury about an alleged incident that took place between Sypher and Glenn Hogan, a friend of Pitino's.

"I remember him flipping her skirt up," Coury testified.

When asked how Sypher responded to this, Coury said she was "laughing" and "joking" and that Hogan was "joking" as well. He also added that Sypher didn't leave the restaurant after this incident.

As the night wore on, Coury said people started to leave and he did the cash reconciliation for the night. He said Pitino, Sypher and Vinnie Tatum (Pitino's designated driver for the evening) were still in the restaurant and that Pitino and Sypher were sitting at the bar.

He testified that he sat down with Pitino and Sypher for a few minutes.

"I can't recall exactly what we talked about, but I'm sure it was small talk," he said. "I wanted to get out of there."

Eventually, Coury said he told Tatum that the three of them could stay as long as they wished and pointed to a door that would lock behind them when they left. He also testified that he had never before left customers inside the restaurant without someone from the staff to watch them.

The prosecution asked if he had given Pitino or Tatum the keys and told them to lock up, as had been previously reported.

"I wouldn't give my keys to my mother," he said. "Why would I give them the keys?"

Coury said when he arrived at the restaurant the next morning, everything seemed normal, except that the bar lights were still on and a couple of glasses were still at the bar.

In the months following that night, Coury said he had seen Sypher several times – mostly with Tim Sypher, the man who would eventually be her husband. He had also seen her at Porcini.

"Did you ever notice any signs of distress when she was in your restaurant?" Kuhn asked.

"No," Coury replied.

He also testified that he had seen Karen Sypher at Rick Pitino's house several times after that night, and she never seemed to be in any distress.

Moments later, Kuhn gave up the floor and James Earhart, Karen Sypher's attorney, rose to begin his cross examination of Coury. He began by attempting to cast doubt on Coury's ability to remember details from that evening.

He asked Coury to name who else was at the restaurant – other than Karen Sypher and members of Rick Pitino's entourage – that night.

"There were a lot of people there," Coury replied, though he said he couldn't name anyone else.

Earhart then zeroed in on the topic of Karen Sypher.

"You don't have any recollection of ever seeing Mrs. Sypher before that night, correct?" he asked.

Coury said that he did not.

Earhart then asked Coury to name other women who were at the bar that night – women whom he had never seen at the bar before – and he could not.

Earhart then asked Coury if he could recall what Sypher was wearing at other times when she visited the restaurant – particularly the first time she had visited after she and Tim Sypher had been married.

"Probably a miniskirt," Coury said to some laughter.

Earhart then asked what color.

"Probably a red one," he said. "I remember a red one."

More laughter. Coury then said he was guessing red because it was the color of the University of Louisville cardinals.

Earhart then addressed the last thing Coury said he did that night – the night of July 31, 2003.

Leaving Pitino, Sypher and Tatum inside.

"So you didn't see Coach Pitino force himself on Karen Sypher?"

Coury said that he did not.

His testimony ended shortly after that.

  

From Producer Dave Creek in the Fox 41 Newsroom

You've been reading Fox 41 Executive Web Producer Travis Kircher's reports from the Federal Courthouse.  Right now he's stuck in the courtroom and will lose his seat if he leaves to make another report.  But intern Kevin Trager sacrificed his seat to bring us these details by way of Fox 41 reporter Chris Turner:

Pitino testified Wednesday that he met Karen Sypher on July 31, 2003 at an Italian restaurant after a golf outing.  Pitino said he and Sypher began talking after the restaurant closed.  He testified Wednesday, "Some unfortunate things happened and she poked at my pants."

Prosecutor Marisa Ford asked, "Did you have sex with the defendant that night?"  Pitino replied, "Yes, very briefly."

Sypher faces charges of lying to the FBI and retaliating against Pitino by going to police with rape allegations.  She is charged with trying to extort cars, money, and gifts from Pitino in exchange for her silence.  Sypher has pleaded not guilty.

State prosecutors say they consider Sypher's allegations against Pitino unfounded and decided not to charge the coach.

On Tuesday, Lester Goetzinger testified that Sypher told him what to say in phone messages left on Pitino's cell phone in February and March of last year.  Pitino, in testifying Wednesday of allegations in those messages, said, "He mentioned the word rape and I got very sick to my stomach."

Pitino went on to say, "I not only felt threatened, but I was frightened and I knew what was about to happen....I knew someone was about to blackmail me."

And when Pitino was told about Sypher's pregnancy and the possibility of an abortion, "I never thought from day one that was my child."

We'll have more as soon as someone can exit the courtroom without giving up the right to get back in.

12:17 p.m.
The Media Room
1st Floor - U.S. District Court

Court has been recessed for lunch until 1:15.

Thus far this morning, we've heard from Tim Coury (owner of Porcini, where Karen Sypher claims the first rape occurred), Jeff Stebbins (friend of Pitino's who was at Porcini that night) and Vinny Tatum, Pitino's personal assistant on that date.

I will have a detailed analysis of these testimonies later this afternoon or evening. It is difficult to make lengthy posts today, because a large crowd of spectators has arrived and it is difficult to keep your seat in the courtroom. It is still believed that Pitino will testify today, and a lot of local and national media is here -- as well as off-the-street spectators.

We'll keep you updated.

9:04 a.m.
The Media Room
1st Floor - U.S. District Court

The rumor is that University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino will testify today.

Specifically mid-morning. I can't verify the rumor, but I'm told it's pretty sound. Keep checking this blog throughout the day for more info. When his testimony is completed, we'll work as fast as we can to get an in-depth analysis up on the blog -- but due to the level of detail we're going into, it may be a while before it gets up. Check back for short updates throughout the day -- but the full analysis should be up by evening.

I have no idea how many people are going to be in the courtroom, but given the weight of the name "Pitino," I imagine there are going to be a lot.

We've seen a lot more "armchair attorneys" (i.e. Pitino/Sypher groupies) in the courtroom. Most are elderly folks who I imagine get their kicks watching Perry Mason and L.A. Law. One gray-haired gentleman in sloppy clothes and a tattered white handkerchief badgered one of the reporters yesterday, whispering all kinds of questions. (Why didn't the defense cross examine? Why didn't they do voice analysis on Goetzinger's voice?)

By the way, I've noticed a trend.

The past few witnesses the prosecution has brought forward have been patrons of Porcini restaurant. And not just ANY patrons. They've been patrons who were there on the evening of July 31, 2003 -- the night Karen Sypher claims she was raped. They come from all walks of life: a former golf pro from California, a bartender, an executive at The Courier-Journal. Many of them don't know each other -- or know each other purely tangentially -- but they all share one thing in common: they were they that night.

The prosecution is going through great pains to reconstruct where everyone was -- even going as far as to get them to mark their location on a photograph of the bar.

The defense counters that no one could remember everything in such detail. After all, can you remember where you sat on Feb. 19, 2004 when you had that meal at Olive Garden? What you were wearing? What the couple at the table to the left of you was doing?

It's a pretty incredible thing to watch.

...and it's 9:17 now. I'm going upstairs.

 

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