Sypher sentenced to 87 months, allowed to remain free on bond

By Jon Chrisos - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After two delays and months of waiting, 50-year-old Karen Cunagin Sypher was sentenced in federal court Friday to 87 months (7 years, 3 months) in prison for attempting to extort money from UofL basketball coach Rick Pitino. After hearing her sentence, Sypher, who must also serve two years of supervised release, was allowed to remain free on bond.

U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson III handed down that sentence several hours after the proceedings began at 1:30 p.m., after refusing to delay sentencing for a third time. Sypher's new attorney, David Nolan, had filed a second motion asking for another trial, claiming a wide-ranging conspiracy involving Pitino, Judge Charles Simpson, and several others involved in the case.

That motion was denied by Judge Simpson.

During the hearing, when given an opportunity to address the court, Sypher simply replied, "At this time there's nothing I would like to say. I am still going through imprisonment in my own home. I would like to thank my new defense team."

When pronouncing his sentence Judge Simpson told Sypher, "This is a serious crime because it involves serious money. It is brazen, driven by sheer greed. The sentence should reflect the seriousness of the crime."

After an eight-day trial in August 2010, Sypher was convicted by a jury of extortion, lying to the FBI, and retaliating against a witness.

Authorities claimed Sypher made up the story of being raped in 2003 by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. She was found guilty of extortion for trying to force Pitino to give her $10 million in exchange for her silence. Pitino admitted during the trial that he had consensual sex with Sypher at Porcini Restaurant on Frankfort Avenue, but denied raping her.

During Friday's proceedings, FBI Special Agent David Bayer testified that he got involved in the case in an attempt to find out who made threatening phone calls to Pitino and discussed a list of demands Sypher allegedly gave to Pitino and that she ultimately demanded $10 million before threatening to file rape charges.

Around 3:15 p.m., Sypher's attorney called Jacob Wise - Sypher's son - to the stand. He referred to the handwritten "wish list" that was presented as evidence in the trial. Wise testified that he was in the meeting between Sypher and Pitino and that Pitino promised all the stuff on the list, and that they were all Pitino's ideas, not his mother's.

Wise said he and Pitino shook hands and Pitino told him he wanted to make their lives better.

There is no parole in the federal prison system, which means Sypher must serve at least 85 percent of her sentence, nearly 74 months, before her supervised release. Sypher faced a maximum sentence of 26 years in prison, but legal experts predicted a lighter punishment based on federal sentencing guidelines.

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