Pitino scandal had roots in restaurant tryst Print
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Wednesday, 12 August 2009 07:16
NCAAB Headline News


 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -The woman accused of trying to extort Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino approached him in a restaurant six years ago, and the two had sex later that night, the coach told police. Two weeks after they met, the married father of five gave her $3,000 after she said she needed an abortion and didn't have health insurance.
Pitino told police he had been drinking at the restaurant and had consensual sex with Karen Sypher in August 2003 at a table near the bar. The police report said the 56-year-old coach denied Sypher's allegations that he raped her after the restaurant closed and at another time somewhere else.
The university's president expressed surprise at new details in the scandal surrounding the coach, whose contract includes dishonesty and ``moral depravity'' as grounds for firing.
encouragement, and the coach obliged, he said. Later that night, the upscale restaurant called Porcini cleared out, and the owner left the coach his keys. That's when they had sex.
She claimed Pitino forced himself on her, while the coach said she came onto him.
The two apparently weren't alone, though: The police documents, first reported by The Courier-Journal of Louisville, says a Pitino assistant was there during the encounter and heard what sounded like consensual sex.
Sypher reported the rape allegations to police last month, but a Kentucky prosecutor said he lacked evidence to prosecute. Sypher, 49, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of lying to the FBI and trying to extort $10 million from Pitino, who is married.
Sypher's attorney, James Earhart, said Wednesday morning that he hadn't yet talked to Sypher about the release of the police documents.
Pitino told police that about two weeks after he met Sypher, she called to say she was pregnant and that he had to be the father. Pitino told her when they met again that he didn't know what he wanted to do, according to the report by Sgt. Andy Abbott, commander of the sex-offense unit.
According to the reports, Pitino suggested the two meet at the condo of the team's equipment manager, Tim Sypher. She alleges the second assault took place at the condo. Karen Sypher, who later married Tim Sypher, first met the manager that day.
Pitino said Sypher told him she was going to have an abortion but didn't have health insurance, so he gave her $3,000, according to the report. She told police the procedure was done in Cincinnati.
Pitino's lawyer, Steve Pence, said the story is about Sypher and not his client.
``Karen Sypher is indicted for extortion,'' Pence told The Associated Press. ``The commonwealth's attorney has said she is void of any credibility.''
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said in a statement that ``Coach Pitino has been truthful with us about this matter all along and we stand by him and his family during this process.''
School president James Ramsey, who also said his thoughts were with the Pitino family, said new details in the case surprised him.
``Several months ago, Coach Pitino informed me about the alleged extortion attempt. I've now been informed that there may be other details which, if true, I find surprising,'' Ramsey said in a statement.
If the coach wasn't forthcoming about the scandal with his employer, the consequences could be more severe than negative headlines. Pitino's contract with the university includes clauses that outline reasons for termination. Listed among the reasons is: ``Employee's dishonesty with Employer or University; or acts of moral depravity.''
The contract, which runs through 2013, also includes among the grounds for firing ``disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer or University, if such publicity is caused by Employee's will misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring Employee into public disrepute or scandal.''
Pitino is Catholic and brings along a priest who's a close friend and spiritual adviser on many team trips.
Abbott asked Sypher during one interview why she waited until after she was indicted to report the rape allegations.
She gave varying answers, according to transcripts, saying she wanted to forget about it, that Pitino threatened her and finally that ``they kept throwing crumbs to keep me happy.''
Abbott asked Sypher why she was coming forward only after she was charged.
``Because ... where we are, it seems like retaliation,'' Abbott said.
``I know it does,'' Sypher responded.
Abbott's report said Vinnie Tatum, a former executive assistant to Pitino, told the FBI he was in the restaurant during the first encounter but he didn't see anything. He said he heard ``only the sounds of two people that seemed to be enjoying themselves during a sexual encounter.''
Abbott said records indicate that Pitino was in California when Sypher claimed she was sexually assaulted the second time.
A message Wednesday for Tatum at his office in the university's basketball practice facility was not immediately returned.
April when Pitino announced that someone had tried to extort him. Pitino said he reported it to the FBI, and Sypher surrendered to authorities a few days later when she was named in a criminal complaint.
University sports information director Kenny Klein directed all inquires to Pence. Pitino finished his eighth season with the Cardinals, leading them to a 31-6 record and the Big East regular-season and tournament titles. The Cardinals lost to Michigan State in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.
Tim Sypher was Pitino's personal assistant with the Boston Celtics from 1997-2001, then followed the coach to Louisville in 2001. He and Karen Sypher are currently going through a divorce.
A message for Tim Sypher was left Wednesday at the office of his divorce attorney.
The criminal complaint said Tim Sypher brought Pitino a written list of demands from his wife, including college tuition for her children, two cars, money to pay off her house and $3,000 per month. The demands later escalated, the complaint said. Tim Sypher has not been charged.
Besides Louisville and the Celtics, Pitino coached the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989 and the University of Kentucky from 1989 to 1997.
 

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