Kentucky

Sypher says husband was paid to marry her

In a telephone call with a Louisville police detective on July 13 about her allegations that University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino raped her twice in 2003, Karen Sypher said her estranged husband, Tim Sypher, "was paid to marry me," according to police records.

Karen Sypher levied additional explosive allegations in the interviews, including that she was threatened after becoming pregnant from an encounter with Pitino, who gave her $3,000 to pay for an abortion.

Pitino denied the rape charges, telling police the two had consensual sex once after hours at Porcini, a Louisville restaurant. Prosecutors declined to charge Pitino, saying Sypher's account lacked credibility. She was later charged with lying and attempting to extort $10 million from Pitino. She has pleaded not guilty.

Sypher's allegations were repeated Friday in an interview with the New York Post, whose front page trumpeted the exclusive story with the headline "Sex, Lies & Pitino."

Among the allegations Sypher made in a police interview:

■ Her estranged husband, Tim Sypher, "was paid to marry me," she said, according to police records. She said she did not know where the money came from.

Tim Sypher, the U of L equipment manager and long-time personal assistant to Pitino, married Sypher in 2004. The couple are in the process of divorcing and are engaged in a custody battle for their 4-year-old daughter.

■ After she became pregnant, Pitino threatened her and told her she had no choice but to have an abortion.

However, The New York Post reported Friday that Sypher gave them a tape recording of a voice message from Pitino saying the abortion was Karen Sypher's choice.

Pitino's attorney issued a statement Friday saying that Karen Sypher's claim that she was forced to have an abortion "is a complete fabrication."

■ After her abortion in Cincinnati, two people — one of Pitino's close friends and an unnamed former attorney — offered her $650,000, she told police. Sypher said she did not accept the money.

Karen Sypher's allegations were detailed in police records obtained by the Herald-Leader through a request under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

Pitino, 56, told the detective, according to police records, that he paid her $3,000 when she said she had become pregnant and wanted an abortion but had no health insurance. Steve Pence, Pitino's attorney, said Pitino gave her the money for health insurance and not specifically for the abortion.

According to the Web site of Planned Parenthood, "the majority of private health plans cover abortion care as part of a broader health care package."

Sypher, 49, accused Pitino of rape after a federal grand jury indicted her on charges of extortion.

She said the second rape occurred in Tim Sypher's condo when she and Pitino met to discuss the abortion. Pitino told police the second sexual encounter never occurred. The police report said Pitino was in California at the time Sypher said the second attack occurred.

Pence said that Sypher's statements are part of a continuing attempt to embarrass Pitino, "which she promised to do in her attempt to extort money from him."

"Both her medical records and recorded statements of Coach Pitino demonstrate that this decision was solely hers," Pence said.

"Ms. Sypher is clearly disturbed and incapable of telling the truth," he said.

Abortion discussion

Documents from a Cincinnati abortion clinic showed that Sypher checked off boxes saying she was "confident" and "strong" that she was doing the right thing, according to the New York Post.

She also indicated on the form that she did not think abortion was akin to murder and that she would not regret having the procedure, the Post said.

The New York Post reported Friday that the voice-mail message from Pitino says, "I think that the best thing in all scenarios is to go through with it (have the baby), but that has to be your call."

"I think, I really can't give you any advice, except I have thought about it," he said. "This is a very unfortunate situation. ... You just let me know what you're gonna do."

Records show that Pitino told Sgt. Andy Abbott "that he was married with five kids, and that she had four kids, and that he didn't know what he wanted to do about the situation."

On Wednesday, Pitino publicly apologized to his family, U of L officials and fans after the Courier-Journal reported details of his interview with police. U of L officials said he would keep his job. Under his contract, Pitino collects a $3.6 million bonus if he is still coaching there on July 1, 2010.

Polygraph report

In interviews with police in July, Karen Sypher said it was Tim Sypher who drove her to Cincinnati for the abortion and that later, the two started dating. "I fell in love," she said.

She told The New York Post she thought the marriage was orchestrated by Pitino to silence her.

Karen Sypher also said that a former girlfriend of Tim Sypher's worked as a nanny for Pitino.

Karen Sypher said that after the sexual encounter and abortion, she was offered $650,000 by two close associates of Pitino.

The police records also show that Pitino provided police with a report from a polygraph examination given by a retired FBI agent and there was no indication of deception when he replied "no" to the question of whether he forced Sypher to have sex.

Pitino told police that once Karen Sypher married Tim Sypher, Pitino was often in her company and she did not act uncomfortable.

"He said that they often attended the same parties, that they tailgated at football games together, made trips with the basketball team together and that Sypher even went to his niece's shower," according to a report written by Abbott.

Pitino said "that amongst all of the social occasions where they were with each other, that she never displayed any strange behavior," Abbott's report said.

Abbott said that he found problems with Karen Sypher's credibility. She could not offer valid explanations on some key points, he said.

'Suffered enormously'

Karen Sypher's attorney, James A. Earhart, would not comment Friday on her claims.

"I will leave it at what her statement was," said Earhart. "I don't have the full police interviews yet."

Earhart said he did not know until "after the fact" that Karen Sypher had spoken to The New York Post.

"We're not trying to try our case in the media," he said. "There's no point to it.

"Karen and her family have suffered enormously throughout this entire ordeal," he said.

A trial date has not been set.

Tim Sypher's attorney in the custody case, James McCrocklin, said that Tim Sypher had been cooperating with federal and state authorities and that his statements were consistent with Pitino's.

"Ms. Sypher wants to make this a circus," McCrocklin said. "But we have to present our case in the courtroom. And our only interest is this 4-year-old little girl."

McCrocklin said that Tim Sypher was not going to publicly respond to his wife's charges.

As the controversy over Pitino's admission that he had consensual sex with Sypher played out in the national media, at least one of Pitino's speaking engagement's engagements was cancelled.

Samford University, a Southern Baptist university in Alabama, has cancelled a Sept. 10 speech by Pitino.

"He was doing it as a favor for someone and was not receiving a fee," U of L spokesperson Kenny Klein said. On Friday evening, Klein said that the support U of L president James R. Ramsey and Athletic Director Tom Jurich expressed on Wednesday continues.

Klein said he did not have any information about a seminar called Get Motivated: Business Seminar by Dr. Robert Schuller, at which Pitino was scheduled to appear. The Courier-Journal reported that Pitino had been removed from ads for the program, which also features former first lady Laura Bush.

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