- Associated Press - Monday, July 26, 2010

LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) - Opening statements in the trial of a woman charged with trying to extort University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino focused on sex at a restaurant and who may have lied about it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said in opening statements Monday morning that Karen Cunagin Sypher threatened to ruin Pitino’s reputation with false allegations of rape and forced abortion and has lied repeatedly as part of her scheme.

Sypher’s attorney, James Earhart, told jurors Pitino pulled strings and used his influence to cover up a sexual encounter with Sypher, and others had their own motives for manipulating his client.

Sypher is accused of demanding college tuition for her children, having her house paid off and $10 million for her silence.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ A woman charged with trying to extort University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino lied repeatedly in an attempt to squeeze millions from the coach, then traded sexual favors and lied again to cover her crime, federal prosecutors said at the start of her trial Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kuhn told jurors that Karen Cunagin Sypher threatened to ruin Pitino’s reputation with false allegations of rape and forced abortion.

“I submit to you that you will not believe a word she has to say about anything,” Kuhn said.

Sypher, 50, 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.

A jury of eight men and eight women were selected to hear the case. Four jurors will be excused as alternates before deliberations begin. Sypher’s attorney, James Earhart, is set to make an opening statement Monday afternoon.

Kuhn walked jurors through the relationship between Sypher and Pitino, which began with a sexual encounter at an Italian restaurant in Louisville in 2003. Sypher later told Pitino she was pregnant, planned to have an abortion but did not have medical insurance. He told police he gave her $3,000, money his attorney Steve Pence said was for insurance, not an abortion.

Six years later, Kuhn said, Sypher approached a longtime friend, Lester Goetzinger, and traded sexual favors for his making phone calls in February 2009 to Pitino threatening to tell the public that the coach raped Sypher in 2003. Kuhn played part of one call for jurors.

“You need to do the right thing, that’s all,” Goetzinger is heard saying on the tape.

A month later, Sypher traded sexual favors with attorney Dana Kolter, who then signed a joint letter with his client demanding money and threatening to file suit over the 2003 sexual encounter, Kuhn said. Kolter and Goetzinger will testify later at trial.

Pitino reported the extortion attempts to the FBI, which interviewed Sypher several times. Kuhn said Sypher lied repeatedly to investigators about who made the calls, her relationship with Kolter and what happened at the restaurant, Porcini.

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