University of Louisville

Sypher alleges plot to 'destroy' her in motion seeking new trial

LOUISVILLE — The woman convicted of an extortion attempt against University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is asking a federal judge for a new trial and for an outside examination of the evidence.

Karen Cunagin Sypher's new legal team filed the request late Wednesday, saying Pitino, prosecutors and businesses in Louisville "worked to ensure they destroy" Sypher after she accused Pitino of forcing her to have sex in a restaurant in 2003.

Sypher is also asking the judge to allow reviewers of her choice to examine the audio tapes and photographs used at her trial.

Sypher was convicted in August of three counts of extortion, two counts of lying to the FBI and a count of retaliation against a witness. She is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 18.

Sypher's current attorney, David Nolan of Alexandria, Va., claims prosecutors, defense attorneys and business leaders joined forces to protect Pitino because bad publicity about the coach would hurt the profitability of the KFC Yum Center. Louisville plays home basketball games at the new downtown arena.

The allegations were first raised in an October motion to recuse U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson from the case. Simpson dismissed those claims in a Dec. 22 order.

In an affidavit filed with the new trial motion, Sypher said her former attorney, James Earhart, refused to allow her to testify, wouldn't call potentially helpful witnesses and declined to seek independent testing on evidence.

Nolan claims the phone calls demanding money from Pitino were made by more than one person and that Earhart's refusal to investigate were part of the plot.

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