Sypher Found Guilty Across The Board, Pitino Image Repair BeginsPosted by jstevrtc on August 5th, 2010
Earlier today, the jury in the Karen Sypher extortion case found her guilty on all six counts with which she was charged by the government. From KSR:
- Three counts of extortion,
- Two counts of lying to the FBI, and
- One count of retaliating against a witness.
By our tally, that can result in up to 26 years in the hoosegow and $1.5 million in fines. The sentence will be handed down within the next two months.
A couple of quick thoughts, here. You may recall that Sypher’s defense team did not bother to call any witnesses as part of their case. This can only mean that her attorneys felt confident enough in the failure of the prosecution to get over that “reasonable doubt” threshold they’re required to achieve. After an across-the-board guilty verdict, though, you certainly have to wonder about the radar and the handicapping abilities of that defense team. Not only will she not be taking them on any trips out to Churchill Downs any time soon, but it’s conceivable that she could accuse them of ineffective assistance of counsel, a form of legal malpractice, and appeal this verdict. This tactic rarely works, however, because even if your defense calls no witnesses at a trial where you’re found guilty, proving your counsel was incompetent is a very hard thing to do. You’d pretty much have to have an attorney like the lawyer who went nuts and stripped naked during the deposition in the movie Michael Clayton to make that stick.
The rehabbing of Rick Pitino’s image is going to be difficult, and even though Pitino was not the accused in this case, he had to still feel like it because so much of his job is based on public image. He’s lost his public speaking gigs, and one would have to think that many of his big-time endorsement deals are in jeopardy if not already gone. Most importantly, there was that accusation of rape. That claim by Sypher never held any weight, and as more details about that night at the Italian restaurant came out during the trial, it was generally regarded as nonsense. Understandably, though, if you’re Rick Pitino, you wanted to hear a judge and a jury say that the rape accusation was bull, and he and his handlers have to look at the guilty verdict handed to Sypher today as a victory on at least that point.
At the time of this writing, Louisville AD Tom Jurich had just held a press conference (an odd decision, we thought) to discuss the verdict, and you could already see some of the image-rebuilding taking place. When asked about what he thought of the verdict and how much he thought Pitino’s reputation had been damaged by some of the embarrassing (and rather disgusting) details that came out of the trial, Jurich was behind his man 100% as you’d expect him to be, saying that in the public eye, Rick Pitino should now appear to be “on the right side of all of this.” We think Pitino would disagree with that, in his heart, because if he were a completely innocent victim he wouldn’t have sent his son away to coach at Florida with a trusted old pupil and friend in Billy Donovan, probably wouldn’t have pulled another old friend in Ralph Willard out of a head coaching job at Holy Cross to become a Louisville assistant, and we wouldn’t be talking about mistakes made on a random night at a restaurant. Jurich’s purpose was obvious during the press conference, because he fouled up when he defended Pitino helper Tim Sypher, saying that Tim “had no idea all of this was going on when he married [Karen Sypher].” That couldn’t be true, since those two met when Pitino asked Tim Sypher to drive Karen to Cincinnati for the abortion or purchase of health insurance, depending on who you believe. But the point is that Jurich is simply doing his job, here; if he’s decided to stick with Pitino as his head coach, he’s got to appear to be backing him like crazy in this. Jurich and Pitino know that, like politics, coaching — especially recruiting — is often about perception, and they know the value in making the guilty verdict for Sypher appear to be an absolute victory for themselves even though they weren’t one of the contestants. Jurich is just backing his man, and you can’t blame him.
Jurich and Pitino also know that there’s one thing that repairs almost any puncture to a coach’s or player’s public image — winning. Rick Pitino’s relationship with the rest of the world is that he’s a basketball coach, and if he continues to do that well, that’s all people will care about and all they’ll remember. Galleries were applauding Tiger Woods less than six months after his amazing-athlete-next-door image was carpet bombed, and they were doing it because he was fulfilling the only real obligation he had with them — the providing of entertainment in the form of top-level golf. That’s why the 2010-2011 edition of the Louisville Cardinals — to borrow one of Pitino’s superlatives — is the most important team he’ll ever coach. Winning is the ultimate salve. If he can use these tough times to help galvanize his players behind him and produce his best Cardinal team yet, despite all of the taunts and sneers he’s going too have to endure from opposing fans in the upcoming season, he could very well be the one laughing last. Karen Sypher was revealed to have said, “If I’m going down, I’m taking Pitino with me.” Well, she’s going down (stop laughing). What happens on the basketball court will determine whether or not she was successful in that evil mission.