Jury begins deliberating in Pitino extortion case

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) - A jury on Wednesday started deliberating the fate of a Kentucky woman accused of demanding millions from Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino to keep quiet about their sexual tryst.

Karen Cunagin Sypher has pleaded not guilty to extortion and other charges. She did not testify in her own defense, and her attorneys rested their case without calling any witnesses. If convicted, Sypher could face prison time.

Assistant U.S. attorney Marisa Ford told jurors in closing arguments that Sypher was “looking for a golden parachute, something for nothing” when she demanded $10 million, college tuition for her children and her house paid off in exchange for her silence about having sex with the coach, a married father of five, at an Italian restaurant in July 2003.

“This was nothing more than a pure shakedown of Richard Pitino,” Ford said.

Sypher’s attorney, James Earhart, said his client’s ex-husband and longtime Pitino aide Tim Sypher tried to extort the coach. Tim Sypher was at the center of every criminal act and used his then-wife to get back at the coach he worked for since 1996, Earhart said.

Rick Pitino and Karen Sypher are victims of Tim Sypher’s scheme,” Earhart said.

Although she didn’t testify, jurors have heard from Sypher in the form of several hours of videotaped interviews with Louisville television stations and the police.

In interviews with WDRB-TV in Louisville and police, Sypher claimed Pitino raped her after the restaurant Porcini emptied July 31, 2003.

“It didn’t last long. It seemed like hours for me,” said Sypher, appearing to cry, although no tears were visible on the video. “All he said was shut up, shut up and be quiet.”

Ford said the interview with the television station in April 2009 and the one with police a few months later were riddled with inaccuracies. Sypher also lied in several FBI interviews, Ford said.

Multiple witnesses have contradicted Sypher’s stories _ differing with her account of what she wore, what time of day the sex took place and even the weather outside the restaurant.

“When you’re not telling the truth about something, you can’t keep your facts straight,” Ford said.

Once the FBI considered her an extortion suspect, Sypher twice called media outlets to accuse Pitino of rape before going to police, Ford said. The rape claim was made in retaliation for Pitino reporting the extortion attempt to the FBI, Ford said.

“She’s interested in damaging Rick Pitino’s reputation,” Ford said. “She’s intent at this point in payback.”

Earhart said Sypher was the victim of a botched police investigation and the victim of a “scheme” to take her down.

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