Rick Pitino told Louisville police sex with Karen Sypher was consensual not rape
University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino
told police that he had consensual sex with Karen Cunagin Sypher at a Louisville restaurant where he'd been drinking on Aug. 1, 2003.
He also told police that he later gave Sypher $3,000 to have an abortion, according to Louisville Metro Police reports The Courier-Journal obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act.
But Rick Pitino
denied Sypher's allegations that he raped her at Porcini, after the restaurant closed, and again a few weeks later at a different location, police records show. And prosecutors who have reviewed Sypher's claims say Pitino won't be charged.
has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to extort money from Pitino in exchange for her silence about the alleged crimes, and with lying to the FBI. She has pleaded not guilty.
She reported the alleged rapes to Metro Police on July 9, about two months after she was indicted.
The Metro Police records show that the commander of the sex offense unit, who investigated Sypher's claims and interviewed her twice in July, found problems in her accounts of both incidents — which he said raised questions about her credibility.
Sgt. Andy Abbott said in an investigative summary that Sypher failed, for example, to disclose that another person was at Porcini Restaurant when she said the first incident occurred.
That witness, Vinny Tatum, an executive assistant to Pitino, told the FBI that he didn't see what happened but heard “only the sounds of two people that seemed to be enjoying themselves during a sexual encounter,” according to Abbott's report.
Abbott said records also indicate that Rick Pitino
was in California when Sypher claimed he sexually assaulted her a second time.
“The more information I gather, the worse it looks for you,” Abbott told Sypher during a July 13 phone interview, according to a transcript of the call.
Commonwealth's Attorney David Stengel announced in July, after reviewing a videotape of the interviews, that he wouldn't prosecute the case because Sypher's claims were void of credibility and lacked any supporting evidence.
During one interview, Abbott asked Sypher why she didn't report the alleged crimes when they allegedly occurred, and why she waited until after she was charged with extortion to finally report them.
Transcripts of the interviews show she offered varying responses to the first question, saying first that she wanted to forget about what happened, then that Rick Pitino
threatened her, and finally that “they kept throwing me crumbs to keep me happy.” But she couldn't say what those were.
Abbott asked Sypher in the interview why she was coming forward now, only after she was charged.
“Because … where we are, it seems like retaliation,” Abbott said.
“I know it does,” Sypher responded.
Sypher's new court-appointed counsel, James Earhart
, said he hadn't received the records and couldn't comment.
Pitino's lawyer, Steve Pence, said Tuesday that he wouldn't allow his client to be interviewed by The Courier-Journal. In a written statement, Pence said Pitino will “continue to work though this matter privately with his family.” Pence also noted that Sypher is under indictment and that Stengel's office has rejected her allegations.
U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich said in a statement Tuesday that “Coach Pitino has been truthful with us about this matter all along and we stand by him and his family during this process.”
University President James Ramsey released a statement Tuesday night saying: “Several months ago Coach Pitino informed me about the alleged extortion attempt. I've now been informed that there may be other details which, if true, I find surprising. My thoughts are with Coach Pitino and his family.”
The Pitino interview
Abbott interviewed Pitino at U of L on July 12, with his attorney, Steve Pence, present.
Pitino told Abbott he was at Porcini Restaurant, 2730 Frankfort Ave., on Aug. 1, 2003, to celebrate the hiring of former NBA star Reggie Theus as an assistant coach, and that Tatum, the aide, attended as designated driver. The records don't indicate that Theus was there.
Pitino told Abbott that Sypher (then Karen Cunagin) walked up to him early in the evening and asked if he would call one of her sons and encourage him regarding sports and school, which Pitino said he did, on a cell phone.
Pitino said Sypher left the restaurant and returned at about closing time. He said that after the restaurant closed and the last employees and owner Tim Coury had left, Sypher “started coming on to him and that they had sex,” according to Abbott's report. Pitino said he learned later that Tatum was still there.
Tatum told the FBI that he had lain down and couldn't see what happened but that he heard what sounded like consensual sex, Abbott wrote in a report.
Pitino told Abbott that he had had too much alcohol to drive and eventually got a ride home from Sypher, whom he said was “driving him crazy” on the way there, asking for basketball tickets. He said he gave her his business card and told her to call about them.
He said that about two weeks later, Sypher called, telling him she was pregnant and he had to be the father because she hadn't had sex with anybody else for months.
Pitino said he told her they should meet somewhere discreetly to discuss the matter. He said he suggested the condo of the team's equipment manager, Tim Sypher, whom she'd not yet met, but later married. She met Tim Sypher and followed him to the condo.
According to Abbott's report, Pitino said he told her that he had five children and that she had four, and that he didn't know what he wanted to do about the situation.
He said that if she chose to have the child, he would require a blood test to determine whether or not the child was his.
He said she told him she was going to have an abortion but didn't have health insurance. He said he asked how much it would cost and she said $3,000, which he gave her, according to Abbott's report.
He denied Sypher's allegation that he sexually assaulted her at the condo — he said they had no sex there or anywhere else other than on Aug. 1 at Porcini.
And he said that after she married Tim Sypher about six months later, she began attending team and social events where Pitino was present, and never displayed “any strange behavior,” according to Abbott's report.
The Sypher interviews
Abbott interviewed Sypher the first time the day after she reported the alleged crimes.
Sypher told him that she went to Porcini to interview with Mike Przybylek, who was The Courier-Journal's vice president for production at the time. Przybylek told a reporter earlier this year that he met Sypher inadvertently that night at Porcini's bar, and that no interview had been scheduled.
Sypher told Abbott that she was introduced to Pitino at Porcini, and that he spoke by phone with two of her sons, at her request.
She said that at the end of the night, Coury gave Pitino the keys to the restaurant and asked him to lock up when he was ready to leave. At that point, she alleged, Pitino forced himself on her while she was sitting on a leather bench.
“I was pushing him off and screaming,” she told Abbott. “No one was around.”
(Coury, who previously didn't respond to phone messages, was out of town Tuesday and couldn't be reached for comment, a restaurant employee said.)
Asked by Abbott why she didn't disclose that Tatum was present, she said in a second interview that she didn't find that out until more than a year later, and still isn't sure he was there.
Sypher said she gave Pitino a ride home because he hopped in her Escalade after she unlocked the door, and because she wanted him out of her life, she told police.
Sypher also alleged that toward the end of August 2003, when she realized she was pregnant and met with Pitino at Tim Sypher's condo, Pitino pushed her to the floor and raped her again, while Tim Sypher was upstairs.
But Karen Sypher insisted that the incident occurred between the time she had an ultrasound test confirming the pregnancy on Aug. 26, 2003, and Aug. 29, 2003, when she had an abortion in Cincinnati, according to police records.
And Pitino was able to prove through his calendar that he was in Pebble Beach, Calif,. at the time, the records show.
“I confronted her concerning her timetable,” Abbott said in a report, “and she could offer no valid explanation.”
Abbott wrote that “was one of many concerns that I have with the case.”
He noted that Sypher was unable to explain why, “if this man raped you, why would you put yourself in a position where you're going to be around him all the time?”
She acknowledged in the interview that it also didn't make sense that Tim Sypher would continue to work for Pitino knowing the coach had sexually assaulted the woman who later became his wife. The Syphers were married in 2004 but she filed for divorce in March.
In an interview with the newspaper earlier this year, she also was unable to explain why she had married Sypher, given that by her account, he didn't come to her aid when Pitino allegedly assaulted her and she says she was screaming for help.
Tim Sypher and his lawyers couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment. In a statement in April, however, he said “I am devastated by the bizarre allegations that my estranged wife is making against both Coach Pitino and myself.”
Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at (502) 582-7189.