Pitino tells jurors of sexual encounter with Sypher - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Pitino tells jurors of sexual encounter with Sypher


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

LOUISVILLE, KY -- University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino told jurors his sexual encounter with Karen Cunagin Sypher lasted no more than "15 seconds" and that she was the aggressor, asking if he had a condom.

Asst. U.S. Attorney Marisa Ford asked Pitino about his 2003 encounter at Porcini restaurant and whether the two had sex. "Yes, very briefly," Pitino said while on the witness stand. "Some unfortunate things happened and she opened up my pants.

"She asked if I had a condom and I said 'no' because I don't carry condoms. At that point I became very scared," Pitino said, adding that the whole thing lasted 15 seconds.

Pitino's testimony came during the third day of Sypher's federal extortion trial. Sypher is accused of threatening to go public with allegations Pitino twice raped her – and that she later had an abortion – unless he agreed to her list of demands that included cars, a house and cash payments.

The UofL men's basketball coach arrived at U.S. District Court around 11 a.m. and was on the witness stand before 2 p.m. His testimony last more than three hours.

Pitino denied that he raped or ever threatened Sypher, saying "I could never rape any woman. I could never be physically harmful to any woman."

During his testimony, jurors were shown photos of the bar area of Porcini restaurant as Pitino described what happened between him and Sypher on Aug. 1, 2003.

Pitino said he had Sypher drive him home from the restaurant and said their conversation on the way home was "civil" and that she asked him for basketball tickets. He told jurors he gave Sypher his business card and the two exchanged numbers.

Prosecutors say three weeks later, Sypher called Pitino to say that she was pregnant. Pitino told jurors he did not think he was responsible for the pregnancy.

The two agreed to meet at the Prospect condominium of Tim Sypher, Karen's soon-to-be husband at the time. (The two now have a pending divorce).

"I thought it was a set up," Pitino said, but added he remained calmed when Sypher told him she was pregnant and that the child was his.

Pitino then offered Sypher $3000 for health insurance. He later acknowledged to jurors that he learned she used the money to have an abortion in Cincinnati. 

 Six years later, Pitino said he was returning from a recruiting trip in Neveda when he received anonymous threats on his phone.

"Within two weeks, the media will be notified of all the details and evidence of the rape," the caller said on the tape that has been played for jurors.

Pitino told the jury, "he mentioned the word rape and I got very sick to my stomach."

The coach later said he knew he was going to be blackmailed and met with Karen Sypher at his office in the YUM! Center on UofL's campus.

Sypher secretly recorded the meeting.

On tape, Pitino can be heard trying to figure out the identity of the caller.

Sypher: "First of all, don't accuse me."

Pitino: "I'm trying to get to the bottom of this... tell me what's going on."

Pitino told jurors after another meeting at the UofL practice facility, he still did not know who was responsible for the calls.

During that same meeting on Feb. 26, 2009, Pitino can be heard on tape asking what he can do to make Karen Sypher's life easier.

Pitino: "I'm so humiliated.

Sypher: "You're humiliated? I had an abortion of a baby that was way too late. And I did it for you."

The day ended with Pitino denying he threatened Karen Sypher or her family.

Afterwards, one of Sypher's attorneys scolded her for poor behavior in court for slamming pens and notebooks during Pitino's testimony.

The argument ended with Sypher walking out the front door of the courthouse where she briefly spoke to reporters.

"No it was awesome. I am stronger than ever and I'm waiting for my day. What did you think about what the coach said? No comment." 

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