Pitino jurors see TV interview with defendant

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) - Jurors in the extortion trial of Karen Cunagin Sypher on Tuesday watched an interview she gave to a local TV station describing an alleged sexual assault by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.

Federal prosecutors say Sypher made the allegation in April 2009 in retaliation for Pitino contacting the FBI about threatening phone calls he received in February 2009.

The interview with WDRB-TV was never broadcast and was seen publicly for the first time in Sypher’s federal trial on charges of extortion, lying to the FBI and retaliating against a witness.

Sypher said Pitino assaulted her in July 2003 after closing time at Porcini, an Italian restaurant in Louisville.

“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.”

In July 2009, Sypher filed a police report accusing Pitino of rape. Police and prosecutors dismissed the complaint as lacking evidence.

Sypher, 50, is accused of demanding $10 million, college tuition for her children and her house to be paid off in exchange for her silence about her encounter with Pitino.

Pitino, who has acknowledged a consensual sexual encounter with Sypher at the restaurant, was not in court as jurors watched the video. Pitino’s attorney said the coach could testify Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said Monday in court that Sypher traded sexual favors to have a man make phone calls in February 2009 threatening to expose Pitino’s fling with Sypher and to have an attorney send a letter demanding money or he would be accused in a lawsuit of rape.

Prosecutors are using the video and plan to call a reporter from another Louisville television station to testify as they attempt to prove Sypher publicized the rape allegation because Pitino would not meet her demands for money, cars and a house.

In opening statements, prosecutors showed jurors a letter signed by Sypher saying: “If all is accepted, I will protect Rick Pitino’s name for life.”

On the video, Sypher at times appeared to become emotional when talking about the rape allegations, but quickly stopped to answer the next question. At other times, she appeared defiant, telling the station she “had nothing to lose.”

Sypher claimed Pitino forcibly undressed her, then pushed her down before forcing himself on her.

“I said, ‘What are you doing? What’s going on? I don’t want this’,” Sypher said. “I don’t know why I was afraid. I was afraid of this powerful man.”

“Was there any way he could have misunderstood?” WDRB-TV anchor Candyce Clifft asked Sypher.

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