- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

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

Pitino’s attorney, Steve Pence, said the coach will likely testify on the third day of the trial of 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.

Pitino aide Vinnie Tatum was also expected to testify Wednesday. Tatum was Pitino’s driver when the coach met Sypher the night of July 31, 2003.

On Tuesday, jurors heard from multiple people who were at the restaurant, Porcini, when Pitino and Sypher met. 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 in Japan and Australia, testified she was having dinner with a friend at Porcini on July 31 when she ran into a group of men that included Pitino.

Cameron and her friend, who was not called to testify, began talking to Pitino’s entourage, which included former NBA player and Louisville assistant coach Reggie Theus, 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, leaving Pitino, Sypher and Tatum in the restaurant.

Brent called it “unusual” that Pitino remained at the restaurant after closing, something that she said hadn’t happened before or since. Brent said Sypher became a regular at the eatery with then-husband and Pitino aide Tim Sypher in the ensuing years.

Under questioning by Earhart, Brent could not recall what customers were in the restaurant on any other specific night, what they were wearing or what other nights Pitino and his associates dined at Porcini and stayed after the restaurant closed.

“That was probably the only time ever?” Earhart asked.

“Yes, sir,” Brent replied.

“I thought so,” Earhart said.

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 4-year-old daughter together. The two are in the midst of a divorce.



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