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Karen Sypher Trial: The Opening Arguments


Karen Sypher arrived in Federal Court in Louisville this morning to face six charges of extortion, lying to the FBI and Retaliation against a witness. The scene was somewhat bizarre (as expected) and the lawyer in me found a lot of the details fascinating. But I will attempt to do what most believe I cannot, and do at least one post without any analysis or sarcastic commentary (I will save that for later tonight). Instead, I will summarize the opening statements of both the United States and Karen Sypher. Each side’s version of event has a couple of similarities but diverges on key points. So here were the arguments laid down by the two sides this morning in court:


— On July 31, 2003, Rick Pitino and Karen Sypher have sex in Porcini’s after meeting for the first time in the restaurant.

— Pitino Assistant Vinnie Tatum was present for the entire encounter

— After the encounter, which occurred after the restaurant closed, Sypher gave Pitino a ride home and asked if she could get basketball tickets.

— Soon thereafter, Sypher realizes she is pregnant and on August 21, signs a paper at a Women’s Clinic saying she wants to have an abortion.

— On August 25, Sypher meets with Rick Pitino alone to talk about the situation, with Tim Sypher (at this point not her husband) waiting upstairs.

— On August 28 (my birthday…which may never now be the same), Pitino leaves a message for Sypher from the Pebble Beach golf course in which he says the decision as to whether to have the child is hers. This message will play in court.

— On August 29, Tim Sypher takes Karen Sypher to Cincinnati where she has an abortion. The two later become close and end up getting married.

— In the interim, Sypher is married to Tim, is around the team and Rick a great deal and even attends a Christmas party that same year at Porcinis with, among others, Rick Pitino.

— Fast forward to February 26, 2009. Tim and Karen Sypher have separated and Lester Goetzinger, a Sypher friend calls and leaves two messages on Rick Pitino’s cell phone. The US Attorney says the calls came after Sypher gave Lester oral sex. Both were played in court and both suggested he knew what had happened six years prior and Rick needed to make it right with Sypher.

— Pitino is on a plane when the messages are given and responds when he lands. He sets up a meeting for February 28, in which Rick, Tim and Karen meet. Rick asks who made the calls and then asks what he can do to help the situation. For the first time, Karen tells Tim she wants a legal separation. Sypher tapes the meeting and it will be played at trial. Part played during opening statement has Sypher saying that she is “as devoted as he is” (meaning she is as devoted to Rick as her husband) and Rick saying that Sypher is “part of our family…you’re not an outcast.”

— March 6, 2009 a letter is delivered from Tim Sypher to Rick Pitino in the hotel right before Louisville is to play West Virginia for the Big East regular season title. In it, Sypher demands college for all her kids, two cars, a house, $3,000 a month for food and bills and $75,000 when Rick leaves Louisville. In exchange, she will keep his name clean.

— March 22, 2009, Sypher has oral sex with her lawyer Dana Kolter and he agrees to help her with her situation. Rick Pitino also gives $10,000 to Tim Sypher for Karen out of his bonus he was given for winning the Big East Tournament. The money is to buy Karen’s son a car.

— March 24, 2009, Kolter writes Rick a letter demanding money in satisfaction for potential claims Sypher may have against him.

— March 31, 2009, Pitino’s lawyers and Kolter meet…$3.5 million is demanded and the meeting ends with no agreement.

— April 7, 2009, Pitino reports Sypher’s threats to the Kentucky Attorney General.

— Sypher is charged with three counts of extortion…one for the Lester calls, one for the letter she wrote, one for the Kolter letter….two counts of lying to the FBI, one for the underlying relationship and one for saying her arrangement with Kolter was “strictly business”….and one count of retaliation against a witness for when Sypher went to the police and charged rape after Pitino went to the Ky Attorney General.

So thats the United States’ version. Here is Sypher’s:


— Attorney begins by saying “this case is about money, power and influence…it is about what happens when you are raped by someone with power, money and influence…you must be destroyed.”

— On July 31, 2003, Karen Sypher went to Porcini’s to meet with a person from the Courier Journal about a potential job…a job she later received.

— While there, she was noticed by Rick Pitino, who invited her to sit with him at his private table. He offered her wine and she sat there with the group for a long period of time.

— As the place began to clear out, the owner gave Pitino the keys and asked him to “lock up when you are done.”

— Sypher claims she was then raped on a table in Porcini’s

— After it was over, Rick Pitino demands that Sypher take him home and she does.

— She tells someone (it was not said who) about the incident the next day but doesnt go to the police because she believes no one will believe her.

— She finds out she is pregnant, calls Rick Pitino and he says to her that he is sorry about the “unfortunate incident.”

— She claims that she is then told that if an abortion doesnt happen, it will be like “concrete in a river.”

— She claims she then met with Rick at his home and is raped again, with Tim Sypher upstairs.

— Tim Sypher takes her to Cincinnati to get an abortion and makes sure that there is no mention of Pitino or Tim Sypher’s name on the papers, even changing the paperwork so as to assure it.

— Tim Sypher calls Rick on the way home and says “it is all taken care of.”

— Tim then comforts Karen, and they end up getting married in a relationship that Karen Sypher’s attorney says was a “sham to take care of the unfortunate incident.”

— Fast forward to 2009….Sypher claims Lester is a “Fatal Attraction type” who has an obsession over Sypher. She calls Rick without her knowing and makes the threats.

— Pitino doesnt call law enforcement but instead calls Sypher, who insists doesnt know who did it. Rick then offers her “things” to help out with the situation.

— Pitino then asks Sypher what he can give her to make this all go away and help her. She then writes the letter with the list of things that she needs…which she claims is the letter shown by the prosecution.

— She meets with Dana Kolter, who suggests that they sue Pitino for 10 million dollars. He then drafts the letter to Pitino.

— Kolter and the Pitino lawyers meet and figures are “bantered about”, incluidng a claim for an offer of $500,000 from Pitino to Sypher.

— Soon after, Pitino goes to law enforcement and Sypher claims she is called into Steve Pence’s office (Pitino’s lawyer and former US Attorney), where she is given a sheet of paper to sign with the promise that if she does, “it will all go away.” She says no.

— She is then charged with the crimes.

— Throughout his argument, the defense attorney claimed that Tim liked to say that he “knew what size shoe she wore” as a reference to an earlier comment that she would be wearing “Concrete shoes” if she ever told on Rick. She claims that at Christmas, 2008, Tim Sypher left an empty shoe box on her steps as a final warning.

So there you go. That is each side’s case as presented in opening arguments. Remember that opening arguments are not testimony or evidence and just because they say it, doesnt mean they have facts to back it up. But it does give you a roadmap as to what each side is planning to do.

Article written by Matt Jones