Officer: Sypher rape allegations inconsistent

Rick Pitino

Rick Pitino

Karen Cunagin Sypher

Karen Cunagin Sypher

— A woman who accused Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino of rape gave a statement with multiple inconsistencies, including the time of day when the alleged attack took place and whether anyone else was in the restaurant at the time, a Louisville police investigator testified Tuesday.

Sgt. Andy Abbott said 50-year-old Karen Cunagin Sypher omitted important details about the alleged July 31, 2003, attack and contradicted herself several times during a July 10, 2009, interview at police headquarters. Abbott also noted that, during the interview, Sypher made crying sounds, but did not have tears in her eyes.

Abbott said he submitted the case to prosecutors for consideration after interviewing Pitino, Sypher and speaking with the FBI because Sypher had already been charged with trying to extort millions of dollars from Pitino.

"I submitted it to them with the stipulation that it was preliminary," Abbott said.

Kentucky prosecutors declined to pursue the case or send it back to Abbott for further investigation, saying Sypher's allegations lacked merit.

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 in exchange for her silence about a one-night fling with Pitino at Porcini, an Italian restaurant in Louisville.

Jurors also saw a videotaped interview Abbott conducted with Sypher on July 10, 2009. In the interview, Sypher tells Abbott that Pitino raped her twice — once at Porcini and once at the condo of her future husband, Tim Sypher — before she had an abortion in August 2003.

Sypher's contradicted herself at times — including whether it was day or night — and her account also differed from the testimony of witnesses at the trial.

Among the details Sypher didn't disclose on the video was the presence of Pitino's aide and driver, Vinnie Tatum, at Porcini the night of the sexual encounter. Abbott said he found out about Tatum being at the restaurant in a conversation with the FBI two days after he interview with Sypher.

In a subsequent phone call, Sypher acknowledged that Tatum was in the restaurant.

"She told me he was dead drunk on the other side of the wall," Abbott said.

Tatum previously testified to being at the restaurant, but moving from the bar to the dining area of Porcini because he felt uncomfortable around Pitino and Sypher before their sexual encounter.

On cross examination, defense attorney James Earhart attacked the way Abbott handled the investigation, focusing on the fact of Tatum and others who were at the restaurant not being interviewed.

Abbott also acknowledged that he interviewed Sypher at the request of then-chief deputy Lt. Col. Troy Riggs. Abbott said Riggs, now the police chief in Corpus Christi, Texas, wanted a supervisor involved in the investigation and asked Abbott, who oversees the sex crimes detectives, to handle it.

In most cases, Abbott said, detectives would handle the preliminary investigation, then report to a supervisor.

© 2010 Evansville Courier & Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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