How will national attention affect the Karen Sypher extortion trial?

Brian Butler
Brian Butler
Karen Sypher
Karen Sypher
Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino

Louisville, KY - By Marisela Burgos - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Jury selection is scheduled to begin on July 12 in the high profile case against Karen Sypher, the woman accused of trying to extort $10 million from UofL men's basketball coach Rick Pitino.

This week, federal prosecutors and the defense filed Trial Memorandums. For the defense, Sypher's attorney, James Earhart's trial memorandum does not disclose too many details about their case. The paperwork restates the six counts Sypher faces, which includes extortion, lying to law enforcement, and retaliation against a witness. The document briefly states what the state has to prove for each count. The defenses' paperwork reiterates Sypher denies all the charges against her.

The prosecution's filing is more detailed. It indicates federal prosecutors will try to prove to jurors that Sypher has made similar accusations before and that her rape allegations against Pitino were a retaliation.

As the trial date approaches, Brian Butler, a former prosecutor turned defense attorney, said the media attention could be distracting. He said the media frenzy intensifies the week before the trial, adding both sides will feel the pressure.

"It's not just another case. It's a case that every single person is going to know the outcome. And going to know whether you did a good job or bad job," said Butler. "They're the kind of cases that keep you up at night for sure."

Butler is not involved in Sypher's case, and said he does not know Pitino. However, Butler is familiar with cases in the spotlight.

"It makes it difficult to prepare your case, 'cause witnesses are concerned {with} how am I going to appear in the media. How is this going to affect me," he said.

Butler is the attorney for Jason Stinson, the former Pleasure Ridge Park High football coach. He represented Stinson in the reckless homicide trial following Max Gilpin's death. Stinson was acquitted in the end.

"I think you'll have people, similar to Coach Stinson's trial, that will be following it day by day," said Butler.

But all the coverage of the Sypher-Pitino saga could make it tough to seat a jury on Monday.

"A court has to really make sure you have people, while they may know something about it, they haven't formed an opinion that they can't set aside," Butler said.

Sypher has pleaded not guilty. When the trial begins July 26, Butler expects the courtroom to be packed with media from local and national networks.

"Basketball is king in Kentucky. Rick Pitino is a national celebrity figure and it involves sex and allegations of inappropriate conduct and allegations of money and bribes. It really has everything a bad novel is made of," said Butler.

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