Ex-boyfriend: Sypher called extortion try on Pitino 'stupid'

CBSSports.com wire reports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A woman accused of trying to extort University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino called the move "stupid" and talked of regretting it three days after her initial arrest on federal charges in April 2009, an ex-boyfriend testified Monday.

Tyree Fields of Dayton, Ohio, said he met with 50-year-old Karen Cunagin Sypher on April 27, 2009, began talking to her about the extortion charge and asked, "what in the heck did you do?"

"Her response to me was that it was stupid, I shouldn't have done it," said Fields, who told jurors he had a sexual relationship with Sypher from the spring of 2008 through 2009. "She knew exactly what I was talking about."

Sypher has pleaded not guilty to extortion, retaliating against a witness and lying to the FBI. She is accused of demanding college tuition for her children, her house to be paid off and $10 million. She claims Pitino raped her in an Italian restaurant in Louisville in July 2003 -- a charge that Pitino denied and that authorities dismissed as lacking merit.

Sypher had an abortion in August 2003, about a month after having sex with Pitino. She claims that it was forced and that Pitino gave her $3,000 for it. Pitino said that he never forced Sypher to have the procedure and that the money was for medical insurance. Six years later, Pitino received phone calls threatening to air the rape charges publicly. A short time later, witnesses said, Sypher had delivered a list of demands for her silence.

Fields, who lived in Louisville from 2007 until late 2009, became the third person to testify to having an affair with Sypher while she was married to a longtime Pitino aide.

Sypher's former attorney, Dana R. Kolter, and longtime friend Lester Goetzinger have both told jurors about having sexual relationships with her between 2006 and 2009. Goetzinger also admitted to making the calls to Pitino in exchange for sexual favors from Sypher.

Fields, a former basketball talent scout for a sports consulting company, said he met Sypher in the spring of 2008. He said the relationship quickly became sexual before tapering off to a friendship. Early on in the relationship, Sypher said Pitino had raped her twice and forced her to get an abortion, Fields said.

Sypher also talked throughout 2008 about her financial issues and divorce from then-husband Tim Sypher, a longtime Pitino aide, Fields said.

"It seemed the financial issues were affecting her happiness," Fields said.

After returning to town in April 2009, Fields said, he saw news reports detailing the charges against Sypher and called her.

Sypher picked him up and as they sat by the side of the road, Fields said, he asked her about the report. That's when Sypher made her comments, Fields said. Fields said that was the last time he had spoken to Sypher.

Earlier in the day, Kolter told jurors about how Sypher delivered to him a list of items she wanted from Pitino -- including a 2010 Lexus SUV, complete with tan leather seats and the luxury package -- in March 2009.

Kolter, who also admitted to having a sexual relationship with Sypher while representing her, said that he took the allegations against Pitino seriously and that he hoped a suit against Pitino would "bring the wrath of God down."

Kolter, who fidgeted with his tie throughout his testimony and occasionally started to cry, said he didn't know if a lawsuit against Pitino related to an alleged 2003 rape would have been viable because of the time limits on filing lawsuits.

"I don't know if I'd have won that argument," Kolter said. "I just know I've got a big 'A' in the middle of my forehead for the rest of my life."

Kolter at times defended his work with Sypher, saying he tried to get her to a psychologist because he thought "her eggs were scrambled." Kolter said his client and part-time lover appeared to be under the control of someone else. Kolter then alluded to the case of Jaycee Dugard, a California girl kidnapped nearly two decades ago, but recovered last year after allegedly being held in the back yard of a sex offender.

"It's kind of a weird circumstance," Kolter said.

Defense attorney James Earhart pointed out that Sypher waived her attorney-client privilege, which normally keeps communication between lawyers and their clients secret, to allow Kolter to testify.

"Part of the situation is a bit embarrassing to you," Earhart said.

"Of course it is," Kolter replied.

"And, embarrassing to Karen?" Earhart asked.

"It should be," Kolter said.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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