The story of today was the final day of testimony from Rick Pitino, who faced cross-examination and addressed the issues at hand in the trial. Pitino was confident throughout and also very confrontational, being forceful with the Defense Attorney and proclaiming his innocence of the allegations made by Sypher against him. From a legal standpoint, I think he did a great job and helped the United States’ case a great deal. But from a public relations standpoint, there were comments that will likely stick with Rick forever. Below is a recap of his testimony and the first testimony from Tim Sypher. The Pitino comments are fairly graphic and should be avoided by those who dont want to potentially cringe.
RICK PITINO CROSS-EXAMINATION:
— The Defense Attorney comes to the podium with a copy of Rick Pitino’s book and reads a quote from the book about demanding loyalty from his assistants and that they should help a coach by any means required. He asks if that is how Pitino feels and he says yes, for success in basketball. The attorney then goes into a long series of rather ineffective points, asking if Pitino had been prepped for his testimony, who he had talked to and whether UL Sports Information Director Kenny Klein had been telling Pitino about the testimony that Klein had heard in court. It was a poor start for the defense attorney and he didnt get across the points he had hoped to make.
— Pitino states in response to a question that “this is not myself vs Karen Sypher…this is the United States vs Karen Sypher.” He states forcefully that “I never forced myself on Miss Sypher.” He does say that this ordeal has taken a toll on him. He also states that it has ended his career in motivational speaking, for which he made $1,000-$40,000 a speech.
— The Defense Attorney then focused on the recorded conversations of Sypher and Pitino’s meeting on February 26, 2009, right after he received the threatening phone calls. The attorney focuses on Pitino’s continued phrase that the caller “knows every detail” of the Porcini’s and condo encounters to try and portray that Rick is including the rape charge as one of those details. Pitino convincingly argues that is false and becomes very confrontational.
— The Attorney asks why Pitino never denied the rape allegation at that meeting, and Pitino says “I didnt have to challenge something that never happened.” Pitino argues that when he said he wanted to “make her life easier”, he meant get counseling, not give her money.
— The Attorney does highlight some language where Rick says that “you and I, You and I can deny that it ever happened.” Rick said he didnt have an intent to lie but said he would have said anything at that moment to try and figure out who was making the calls. Similarly, the attorney points to language where Rick says “thats not going to be a problem”, in reference to Sypher’s supposed financial problems. He said again that he wasnt going to give her money but was just saying whatever to try and find out who made the phone calls.
— The Defense Attorney then went into a great deal of questioning on why Rick didnt go to law enforcement after the calls. Pitino said it was in part because it was during the season and that he had “no proof” as to who it was. The Attorney then asked, “is it your job to gather proof” and Pitino said he just wanted to find out who made the calls. Pitino also said the “extortion hadn’t happened yet”, as only the first two calls had been made. This is an interesting comment by Rick as it means that if the Defense is able to show Call #3 came from anyone but Lester, they would defeat one of the three extortion counts.
— Pitino talked about a conversation with Karen Sypher’s son in which the son said he was 90% sure the caller was someone named “Tom”. Pitino said he told Sypher’s son that he wanted to assure him that he did not rape his mother. At this point, Pitino still wasnt sure Sypher was involved, saying “she is one of the best actresses I have ever seen in my life.”
— Talk then shifted back to the abortion in 2003. Rick repeated that he set up the trip and asked the Louisville Equipment Manager Tim Sypher to take her. He at one point said “it wasnt my child”, but didnt mention that phrase again and it was unclear whether he meant that is what he thought then, or now. He gave Tim Sypher $3,000 because Karen Sypher said she needed health insurance at this time.
— There were a number of exchanges at this point about relatively irrelevant facts (the amount in a bank account, whether Pitino knew who Tim Sypher dates, etc) that were all said to likely make Pitino look like he was lying on everything. All it did was make it look like the two men were bickering and it really advanced the ball not at all.
— While in West Virginia, Pitino gets the letter from Sypher with her list of demands. It was delivered by Tim Sypher, and Rick’s financial advisor Rick Avare suspects Tim is involved. He tells Tim with Pitino present that he knows Tim loves his wife and kids and his team, but he needs to think long and hard about what he is going to do. The Attorney asks if this is a threat, but Pitino says he didnt say it so he didnt know.
— Then came the one bit of testimony where I personally found Pitino to be rather unbelievable. The Attorney asked Rick about a supposed “settlement” meeting between lawyers representing Rick and Karen Sypher and her lawyer Dana Kolter. Rick deemed it a “factfinding mission” and claimed he “didnt know” if any offers were given at that time. When asked if $500,000 was offered, he said he didnt know because he wasnt there. The defense attorney asked if a mediator had been hired and Rick said he didnt know if one had been hired or if his attorneys had contacted a mediator. It seems as if the Defense will enter evidence in the future that all of these things happened, although they have not yet.
— Then Rick went into details about the Porcinis night in question. He said Karen Sypher came over to him, they talked and she began rubbing his lef. He said he did not tell her to stop or that he felt it was inappropriate. When asked why he was staying after hours, with the owner leaving, Pitino insisted it wasnt for sex but to “finish up his drink.” When asked if this was normal for him, he said no and that it was the first time it had ever happened. He said he told the Porcinis owner he didnt need a ride, because Karen Sypher offered to take him home.
— Pitino then said again that Sypher opened up his pants. She asked if he had a condom and he said that he didnt carry condoms. The attorney said to Rick that Karen Sypher says he ejaculated inside of her and Pitino said that wasnt true. He said that Sypher told him she was fertile and that “her husband looked at her four times and she got pregnant and I immediately pulled out.” The Attorney then asked how Sypher could have become pregnant if he did not ejaculate and he said, “I did, down my leg.”
— Pitino said that it was “physically possible” the child could have been his but declined to go into details on that point. He then said he “was very embarassed that I was a married man and I was with this woman.” The defense attorney said that he should not have been at Porcinis that night and Rick Pitino said the understatement of the year, that the Attorney was “100% correct…I should have gone home.”
— On Redirect, Pitino talked about the toll this had on his family and how tough it had been to tell them. He said it broke his heart to tell his son Richard Pitino that he should leave Louisville and be an Assistant somewhere else, but that is what he told him. The questioning ended and the court recessed for lunch.
It was a very humiliating morning and tough to watch from the audience. Rick shared details that will likely stay with him forever and unfortunately, will continue to follow him. However as a witness, he was effective and I do think he helped the government’s case. But personally, it was a fairly horrible day I am sure. More later tonight on Tim Sypher’s testimony.