Karen Sypher pleads not guilty to charges in Pitino case

Karen Sypher pleads not guilty to charges in Pitino case

Karen Sypher



Posted on December 22, 2009 at 11:30 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 22 at 8:43 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A woman has pleaded not guilty to new criminal charges, including retaliating against a witness, related to an alleged extortion attempt of University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.

Karen Cunagin Sypher's attorney, James Earhart, entered the not guilty plea Tuesday in U.S. District Court, a month after a federal grand jury handed up a second indictment against her.

Sypher did not speak during the hearing. Earhart said no trial date has been set.

The newest charges stem from a police report filed by Sypher in which she accused Pitino of raping her. 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.

Sypher also pleaded not guilty to charges of intent to extort and a new charge of lying to the FBI.

Pitino declined to comment at his news briefing Tuesday.

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

Sypher entered not guilty pleas in May 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 he had a consensual sexual encounter with Sypher in 2003.

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

The original indictment alleged Sypher prompted threatening calls 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 rape allegation 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 voicemail 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.


Associated Press sports writer Will Graves contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)