Prosecution rests in Sypher case - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Prosecution rests in Sypher case

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Louisville, Ky. (WDRB-TV/AP) -- The prosecution in the Karen Sypher extortion case rested on Tuesday.  The defense is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

Earlier, jurors finished watching a recorded Metro Police interview with Sypher that allowed prosecutors to use her words against her -- and Sypher's attorney to ask how thoroughly those claims were investigated.

Testimony continued Tuesday with Sgt. Andy Abbott on the witness stand. As part of Abbott's testimony, federal prosecutors played a video of Abbott's July 2009 interview in which Sypher accused U of L Basketball Coach Rick Pitino of raping her twice.

It's the act of going to police that prosecutors argue support the charge against Sypher of retaliating against Pitino.

In the interview, Sypher described Pitino as "controlling," and said of him, "He's that powerful.  He can do what he wants." 

Sypher has pleaded not guilty to extortion, retaliating against a witness and lying to the FBI. She is accused of demanding college tuition for her children, her house to be paid off, and $10 million.

Abbot said Sypher's statement had multiple inconsistencies, including the time of day when the alleged attack took place and whether anyone else was in the restaurant at the time.

In the interview, Abbott asked Sypher why she married Pitino aide Tim Sypher, knowing they would be around Pitino.  She replies, "I went with my heart instead of my gut."  In the courtroom, she took notes or otherwise looked down as jurors watched the recording.

Sgt. Abbott said Sypher omitted important details about the alleged July 31, 2003, attack and contradicted herself several times during the interview. Abbott also noted that during the interview Sypher made crying sounds, but did not have tears in her eyes.

Abbott said he submitted the case to prosecutors for consideration after interviewing Pitino, Sypher, and speaking with the FBI because Sypher had already been charged with trying to extort millions of dollars from Pitino. "I submitted it to them with the stipulation that it was preliminary," Abbott said.

Kentucky prosecutors declined to pursue the case or send it back to Abbott for further investigation, saying Sypher's allegations lacked merit.  Pitino denied them on the witness stand last week.

Jurors also saw a videotaped interview Abbott conducted with Sypher on July 10, 2009. In the interview, Sypher tells Abbott that Pitino raped her twice before she had an abortion in August 2003.

Sypher's contradicted herself at times, including whether it was day or night, and her account also differed from the testimony of witnesses at the trial.

Among the details Sypher didn't disclose on the video was the presence of Pitino's aide and driver, Vinnie Tatum, at Porcini the night of the sexual encounter. Abbott said he found out about Tatum being at the restaurant in a conversation with the FBI two days after he interview with Sypher.

In a subsequent phone call, Sypher acknowledged that Tatum was in the restaurant. "She told me he was dead drunk on the other side of the wall," Abbott said.

Tatum previously testified to being at the restaurant, but moving from the bar to the dining area of Porcini because he felt uncomfortable around Pitino and Sypher before their sexual encounter.

On cross-examination, defense attorney James Earhart attacked the way Abbott handled the investigation.  He asked questions about Abbott's follow-up to the interview that hinted at incomplete police work.  Abbott answered that he interviewed Rick Pitino with Pitino's attorney present, but did not record the interview.  He said he also spoke with an FBI agent working the case.

Abbott said he did not interview Tim Sypher, restaurant owner Tim Coury, or Pitino aide Vinny Tatum, all key figures in her claims.

Abbott also acknowledged that he interviewed Sypher at the request of then-chief deputy Lt. Col. Troy Riggs. Abbott said Riggs, now the police chief in Corpus Christi, Texas, wanted a supervisor involved in the investigation and asked Abbott, who oversees the sex crimes detectives, to handle it.

In most cases, Abbott said, detectives would handle the preliminary investigation, then report to a supervisor.

Abbott said he turned his "preliminary information" over to the Commonwealth's Attorney's office and left it up to that office to ask for additional investigation.  The Commonwealth's Attorney later ruled Sypher's rape claims were without merit and did not justify any charges against Pitino.

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