Extortion suspect’s attorney to question Pitino

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) - Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is used to answering questions from reporters.

On Thursday, Pitino will face questions unlike anything he’s answered at a press conference.

Pitino will retake the stand in the trial of woman accused of demanding millions from him to stay quiet about a sexual liaison between them at an Italian restaurant in Louisville in 2003. When he does, Karen Cunagin Sypher’s attorney will fire questions in an attempt to shake his denials of rape and accusations of extortion.

Sypher is charged with extortion, asking for cash, cars and a house to stay quiet about the sexual liaison. She has pleaded not guilty, claiming Pitino sexually assaulted her. Police and prosecutors have said her assault claim lacked merit.

Pitino testified for about four hours Wednesday, telling jurors that Sypher initiated the sex by whispering to him and unzipping his pants when he got up to leave an empty Italian restaurant.

The Louisville coach’s testimony marked the first time he’s talked publicly in detail about his July 2003 encounter Sypher, the meeting that led to her trial this week on extortion charges. Pitino’s portrayal of Sypher as the aggressor came after several witnesses said she was flirty and persistent when she approached Pitino at the restaurant.

Pitino obliged her request to say happy birthday to her son on her cell phone. When she returned later, Pitino said, he bought her a drink. They lingered to talk after the restaurant had closed and the owner had gone home.

As he got up from the table, the married father of five said Sypher whispered something.

“Some unfortunate things happened,” Pitino said in the courtroom packed with spectators from basketball-mad Kentucky. “She opened up my pants.”

“Did you have sex that night?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Ford asked.

“Yes, very briefly,” Pitino answered. The two have said they had sex at the table.

Sypher, 50, was sitting a few feet away but appeared unfazed by Pitino’s testimony, sometimes watching him, sometimes passing notes to her attorney, James Earhart.

Sypher is charged with extortion, asking for cash, cars and a house to stay quiet about the sexual liaison. She has pleaded not guilty, claiming Pitino sexually assaulted her. Police and prosecutors have said her assault claim lacked merit.

Pitino entered the courtroom briskly, wearing a dark suit with a white shirt and red tie. He stumbled a bit while taking the witness stand and gave short answers.

He will return to the witness stand Thursday to face questioning from the defense.

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