Wednesday, November 18, 2009

College basketball coach falsely accused in extortion plot

A big time basketball coach is falsely accused, and the motive was money.

Rick Pitino's accuser charged with false rape claim

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The woman accused of trying to extort money from Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was charged Wednesday with retaliating against the coach by falsely claiming he raped her.

A federal grand jury in Louisville brought four new criminal charges against Karen Cunagin Sypher, including retaliation against a witness.

The FBI, Louisville police and prosecutors have said there was no basis for her rape allegations.

She said the coach raped her in a criminal complaint filed after she was indicted in May on charges of trying to extort money from Pitino.

The grand jury also added two intent to extort charges and a second charge of lying to the FBI.

The sordid case became public in April when Pitino said he had told the FBI that someone had tried to extort money from him. Weeks later came the first indictment against Sypher.

Sypher has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of trying to extort money from Pitino and lying to the FBI. She is accused of demanding college tuition for her children, her house to be paid off and $10 million.

The coach subsequently told police that he had a consensual sexual encounter with Sypher in 2003.

A call to Sypher's attorney, James Earhart, was not immediately returned on Wednesday.

Sports information director Kenny Klein referred questions to Pitino's attorney, Steve Pence.

Pence did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The new indictment adds allegations that Sypher had someone call Pitino on March 6 as part of an extortion plot. The indictment also alleges that Sypher had a threat mailed to Pitino on March 22.

The original indictment alleged that Sypher prompted threatening calls to on Feb. 26 and 28.
The new indictment repeats that allegation.

The retaliation charge stems from a report Sypher filed with Louisville police in June. The indictment says Sypher made the charge knowing it would be harmful to Pitino.

The new lying to the FBI charge centers on statements attributed to Sypher that her relationship with a subject of the extortion probe was "strictly business." The grand jury charged that Sypher had an "intimate personal relationship" with the person.

Sypher's longtime friend, Lester Goetzinger, agreed to testify against her. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to clear his record of charges against him.

Prosecutors said Goetzinger left three voice mail messages on Pitino's cell phone between Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 at Sypher's request. Goetzinger's attorney, John Berry of Louisville, has said Sypher traded sexual favors in exchange for the calls.

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