Sypher Found Guilty Across The Board, Pitino Image Repair Begins

Posted 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.

She can appeal, citing counsel's "ineffectiveness," but it's a huge stretch.

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Pitino’s Preparation Evidently Pays Off — The Cross-Examination

Posted by jstevrtc on July 30th, 2010

Thursday was the fourth day of the Karen Sypher extortion trial in Louisville, and it brought the cross-examination of Rick PitinoWe predicted yesterday that there would be some heated exchanges between Sypher’s defense attorney and the Louisville coach (not exactly going out on a limb, there), and that since he’s a master of preparation when it comes to coaching basketball, he’d be confident and ready to roll — or at least appear so — when it came time to talk about some harrowing and even downright embarrassing stuff, especially with an extra night to prep.  Our information below comes from the summaries written by Louisville’s Courier-Journal and the point-to-point breakdown and analysis at Kentucky sports blog KentuckySportsRadio.com (KSR).

Pitino started the day on the stand and was done by noon, totaling six hours on the stand between today and yesterday.  According to KSR, Pitino was an effective witness for the government/prosecution, though things did get a little testy between Pitino and Sypher’s defense attorney — who started his cross-examination by reading a quote from one of Pitino’s books (that’s cold!) — at a couple of junctures when the details of the fateful night at the Italian restaurant were discussed.  It does not, however, sound like there was any particular incident that resulted in huge verbal volleys or anger above what one would expect.  Pitino knows that he can’t allow it to appear as if the defense attorney is getting to him, and we’d expect that his skills at readying himself for opponents served him well.  Still, a few items from today’s witnesses caught our attention.

Tim Sypher testified today, and said things that helped and hurt both his former wife and Pitino.

First, there’s something we haven’t heard mentioned in any discussion, and that’s the fact that Pitino’s motivational speaking days are gone, and according to KSR he was pullin’ down anywhere between a grand to $40,000 per speech.  You could even assume that figure would have climbed if Pitino claimed a national title or a couple more Final Fours, so there’s no telling how much income Pitino cost himself because of a few drinks at a bar and a grave mistake involving a woman who, in our eyes (as we rely on the reports of others), is coming off  like she had an agenda all along.  Mind you, all we’ve heard so far is the prosecution’s case.

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Pitino’s Sex in the Champagne Room

Posted by nvr1983 on August 12th, 2009

As we mentioned in our earlier “Buzz” post about the topic, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reportedly admitted to local law enforcement officials that he had consensual sex with Karen Sypher at Porky’s Porcini’s, a local restaurant, on August 1, 2003 (perhaps in this private room) and paid $3,000 for Sypher to have an abortion (more on this later). While the fact that a powerful male figure having sex outside of his marriage isn’t that shocking, the way that this story has come about is surprising nonetheless (not unlike the recent Josh Hamilton photos).  The saga, which we first reported to the nation back in April, became a national story when Pitino accused Sypher (the estranged wife of Louisville equipment manager Tim Sypher) of attempting to extort him for cash, cars and college tuition. It simmered for a while as random speculation about an affair (what else could it be?) until Matt Jones over at Kentucky Sports Radio uncovered a photo (below) from Sypher’s indictment day featuring a sign held by one of her sons suggesting Sypher may have had an abortion.

Apparently, the Answer is $3000

Apparently, the Answer is $3000

Then, a series of strange events at Louisville earlier this summer calls into question the validity of some of Pitino’s motives in the interim.  Pitino’s son Richard had been an assistant coach at U of L, and earlier this year he was sent to fill the same position under Billy Donovan at Florida.  Now, Pitino has remarked several times over the years that he never considers “lateral” movements in terms of evaluating potential coaching jobs and he encourages his assistants never to do the same with their careers.  When Richard Pitino made basically a lateral move from Louisville to Florida around the time that all this Karen Sypher stuff started, you heard a few rumblings, wondering why Pitino’s son wouldn’t be subject to the same advice as Pitino’s other proteges. Then of course there was the strange acceptance of Ralph Willard into the fold; among coaching ranks, Willard has always been known as a guy who has the coaching chops to handle the captaincy of even the most elite programs in the sport, but simply kept his spot at Holy Cross because he enjoyed coaching there.  He is more of a contemporary than a protege of Pitino’s, and he’s a longtime member of Rick’s inner circle.  The fact that Willard would suddenly make such a strange move was certainly curious, but the matter was dismissed pretty quickly as the Sypher story developed.  Then things got relatively quiet until the news that Sypher’s sexual assault charge against Pitino had been dropped.  Once those charges were dropped, we expected the story to fade away except on Louisville’s trips to the arenas of their more vocal rivals – can you imagine the taunts that will rain down upon him in Rupp Arena and other tough environs, now?

With what we know now, can we say that these moves were just coincidences?  That Richard Pitino simply wanted to get out from under his father’s shadow and stake his own claim?  That Ralph Willard wanted less responsibility as a coach, was ready to leave a place he loved, and just wanted the chance to coach with his old friend again?  Or were these moves representative of a head coach and a father who was getting a few affairs in order?  Was Pitino getting his son Richard out of the media maelstrom he knew was probably coming, asking an old friend and protege in Billy Donovan to take care of his son and let him continue his coaching education in case these personal matters took a bad turn?  Was Pitino bringing in a high-quality coach and old friend like Willard to be his lead assistant and possibly take over Pitino’s Cardinal program in case the Sypher situation started to blow up and Pitino needed to leave the spotlight for a while?  Knowing what a calculating man that Rick Pitino is, it’s hard — in fact, next to impossible — for me to think that these moves were simply coincidental.  No, from our view – Rick Pitino knew this thing was percolating and likely to explode, and he was making sure certain valuables were protected.

Now that we have details to support (?) Sypher’s claims, we have to wonder how this story ever got so big (outside of the obvious salacious details that came out today). Reading Sypher’s account of the incident(s) [both the "confirmed" sex at Porcini's and the alleged sex at her eventual husband's apartment] it is pretty clear that her story is a little hole-y.

We'll Be Seeing More of Her (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

We'll Be Seeing More of Her (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

Key Questions

  • Why would Sypher marry a man (Tim Sypher) who was present for the rape by Pitino that she claims happened at his apartment?
  • How and why would she trouble herself to find out that she was pregnant almost 2 weeks after their first encounter (possible, but has the strong scent of Gold Diggerism)?
  • Was she even pregnant? While the reported dates of all the exams/tests are possible, they border on the edge of being so early that one could reasonably question whether she was actually pregnant.

Given how ridiculous the entire story is one would expect that Pitino should come out of this relatively unscathed (professionally-speaking – we’re sure that Mrs. Pitino, on the other hand, has tightened that leash significantly). One might also expect the release of this information to be enough to kill any potential civil suit that Sypher has, but judging by her reported history in the article we’re guessing this isn’t that last we will hear of her. If this story and the Ben Roethlisberger story have taught guys out there anything (other than ESPN reports what it wants when it wants), it is this:  if she looks or acts a little crazy and you’re a celebrity worth millions, just walk away because there are plenty of other women out there who won’t make your life a living hell after one encounter.

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Pitino: Target of Extortion Attempt

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2009

It looks like we might have an interesting situation developing in Louisville where head coach Rick Pitino announced earlier this evening that he was the target of an extortion attempt. Some message board pundits believe this might be related to someone trying to sell a story about an affair or something along those lines  and we would have to agree since Pitino’s statement doesn’t make it seem like there was some kind of organized crime syndicate involved (too many Law & Order re-runs at the RTC East HQ). [Ed. Note: We would have went with someone threatening to remind the media about Pitino's time in Boston, but that would be blackmail since there would be "substantial truth" to that.]

Credit: Deadspin

Credit: Deadspin

We’ll be following the story as it unfolds since it is just about the only thing going on in college basketball that doesn’t involve coaching changes, recruiting, or the NBA Draft.

UPDATE: It looks like the message board pundits were right and the lucky lady appears to be Karen Sypher, the wife of Louisville equipment manager Tim Sypher, according to reports out of Lexington. We don’t know much about her except for what we believe is a picture of her (below).

Umm. Nice hat. . . (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

Umm. Nice hat. . . (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

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