- Associated Press - Thursday, July 29, 2010

LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) - Rick Pitino and the attorney for a woman accused of demanding millions from him to conceal a sexual tryst exchanged heated words before a jury Thursday, as the Louisville basketball coach tried to fend off accusations of rape and lying.

Attorney James Earhart was pushing Pitino to address allegations from defendant Karen Cunagin Sypher that she was raped. The coach interrupted, saying he was “here to give the truth.” Earhart replied, “I bet you are.”

“I don’t fear the truth,” Pitino said.

“Neither do we,” Earhart shot back.

Sypher, 50, has pleaded not guilty to extortion. She filed a rape report with police about six years after she and Pitino had sex at a table after hours in an Italian restaurant. Authorities have said her claims lacked merit, and no charges were ever filed.

Pitino told jurors on Wednesday that Sypher initiated the sex by whispering to him and unzipping his pants when he got up to leave the empty restaurant.

Pitino, a married father of five, acknowledged during Thursday’s questioning that he didn’t immediately report phone calls that threatened to expose the tryst and a demand for cash, cars and housing for Sypher because he didn’t want his family to find out about the affair.

Pitino said he didn’t immediately contact authorities because he wanted to “contain” potentially damaging information.

Pitino’s testimony ended after about two hours Thursday. His attorney, Steve Pence, said Pitino would return to recruiting later in the day.

“This matter, certainly his portion, is behind him now,” Pence said. “I’m very proud of coach Pitino in how he handled this.”

The coach’s testimony marked the first time he’s talked publicly in detail about his July 2003 encounter with Sypher, the meeting that led to her extortion trial. 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 the former model a drink. They lingered to talk after the restaurant had closed and the owner had gone home.

As he got up from the table, Pitino said Sypher whispered something.

“Some unfortunate things happened,” Pitino said. “She opened up my pants.”

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

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