- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) - Jurors in the extortion trial of a former model have heard a lot about the night she met Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino at an Italian restaurant. On Wednesday, they were expected to hear from Pitino himself.

Pitino arrived midday at the federal courthouse on the third day of the trial of Karen Cunagin Sypher, who is charged with trying to extort cash, cars and a house to stay quiet about a sexual liaison. Sypher, 50, has pleaded not guilty.

Tim Coury, the owner of the Italian restaurant where Pitino and Cypher met, told jurors Wednesday that the two were talking and having a drink when it was time for him to close the business for the night.

Coury said he told the two and a Pitino aide to leave through a self-locking door and then went home.

Pitino’s driver, Vinnie Tatum, told jurors that Sypher appeared to have had a few drinks and was “flirty” when she joined Pitino’s group at an Italian restaurant the night of July 31, 2003.

Tatum also said he didn’t see the the coach and former model having sex at a restaurant table but also didn’t hear anything as he sat about 15 feet away behind a brick half-wall.

Tatum said he moved away from the bar area because he felt “uncomfortable” and considered himself “a third party.”

Tatum spent more than an hour behind the wall, “minding my own business.” Tatum stressed he had not been drinking and was awake the entire time.

“I have no idea what happened,” Tatum said.

Tatum didn’t move until Pitino and Sypher left together in her car.

On Tuesday, jurors heard from multiple people who were at the restaurant, Porcini. Pitino has said he had a consensual sexual encounter with Sypher that night on a table after the restaurant closed. Sypher claimed it was rape, a charge dismissed by police and prosecutors as lacking merit.

Jurors on Tuesday heard from multiple witnesses who described Sypher’s efforts to meet Pitino.

Margaret Cameron, a former professional golfer, testified she was having dinner at Porcini that night when she ran into Pitino’s entourage.

Cameron began talking to them about golf. Then, Cameron said, Sypher barged into the group and thrust her cell phone at Pitino asking for the coach to talk to one of her sons.

Cameron described Sypher’s outfit as “flashy” and her attitude as persistent.

“She wasn’t going to give up,” Cameron said. “She wasn’t going to stop.”

Bartender Melissa Brent testified that Pitino’s group, whom she had dubbed “The Boys” on their restaurant bill, were regulars at the restaurant and appeared to be having a good time in a corner of the restaurant when Sypher _ wearing a white top with a short white skirt _ attempted to “edge herself into the scene.”

Brent said Sypher and Pitino were engaged in an animated conversation and were “enjoying each other’s company” when she left after midnight.

Jurors on Tuesday also saw an edited 80-minute video of an interview Sypher gave to WDRB-TV in Louisville. On the video, Sypher accuses Pitino of raping her, threatening her life, then “brainwashing” her family after she married Tim Sypher in 2004.

Pitino has coached at Louisville since 2001, a job he took after leaving the NBA’s Boston Celtics Tim Sypher, served as special assistant to Pitino. Tim Sypher continued to work for Pitino as Louisville’s men’s basketball equipment manager, but has recently been named director of the Yum Center, the building that houses offices and training facilities for Louisville’s men’s basketball team.

Karen and Tim Sypher married in 2004. They have a young daughter together. The two are in the midst of a divorce.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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