FBI agent takes the stand on first day of Sypher's trial

Karen Sypher
Karen Sypher
Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino

Louisville, KY - By Marisela Burgos - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - During opening statements in the federal trial against a woman charged with trying to extort millions from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, the government told jurors Karen Sypher tried to destroy Pitino's reputation, while her attorney told jurors Sypher is the victim.

The first person to take the stand was FBI agent Steve Wight. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kuhn questioned Wight about phone records regarding Sypher, her long-time friend Lester Goetzinger, and Pitino. Those records show there were several calls made between Sypher and Goetzinger, who the prosecution told jurors had a sexual relationship, and between Sypher and Pitino.

Kuhn said on February 26, 2009, Goetzinger was the person who made two anonymous calls from pay phones to Pitino. Jurors listened to three voice mails left for Pitino. In one of them, the caller said he trusted Pitino to do the right thing. Another said the media would be contacted in two weeks.

James Earhart, Sypher's defense attorney, said his client never asked Goetzinger to make those calls. Regarding Goetzinger, Earhart said he would not call him a stalker, but said "along those lines."

The prosecution introduced evidence written on Louisville Cardinal stationary which contained demands in exchange for Sypher's silence about her sexual encounter with Pitino. The defense said that Pitino told Sypher to lie if it was leaked to the media.

According to Earhart, Sypher said Pitino raped her twice and forced her to have an abortion. Last summer, Pitino admitted he had, what he called, consensual sex with Sypher once in 2003. Sypher's allegation of rape were investigated, by the Commonwealth's Attorney's office found no evidence of a crime.

Another piece of evidence introduced was a letter from Dana Kolter, Sypher's former attorney. The defense claimed it was Kolter's idea to go after Pitino for $10 million and convinced his client. Wight testified Sypher told another FBI agent her relationship with Kolter was strictly business. The prosecution said she lied to that agent and had oral sex with Kolter before he wrote it.

When questioned by Earhart on cross-examination, Wight admitted Sypher had cooperated with FBI agents.

Also during his testimony, Wight said the FBI obtained CD's and DVD's from the Louisville Metro Police Department. On those discs, said Wight, were conversations between detectives and Sypher.

Earhart questioned Wight about interviewing Sypher's son and where that meeting took place.

Sypher, who is charged with attempted extortion, retaliation against a witness and lying to the FBI, is accused of demanding college tuition for her children.

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