Police interview Pitino after complaint filed

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Police have interviewed Louisville
basketball coach Rick Pitino about allegations brought by a woman
charged with trying to extort him, his lawyer said Monday.
Attorney Steve Pence said Pitino has been cooperating in the
investigation and that the allegations are false. The woman, Karen
Cunagin Sypher, has pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges
of trying to extort money from Pitino and lying to the FBI.
Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel said the Louisville police
sex-offense unit contacted him last week to tell him Cunagin Sypher
had made a complaint and that it was turning the matter over to
Stengel after the investigation is complete, probably this week.
Louisville police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said police have
spoken with the woman but wouldn't comment further.
Authorities have not said what information Cunagin Sypher might
have been trying to use to allegedly extort Pitino. They have said
the coach believed the matter was related to an unspecified 2003
encounter with her.
Pence said Pitino went to authorities after learning Cunagin
Sypher had contacted police.
"Coach Pitino has been interviewed by the (police), is
cooperating with their investigation and has passed an independent
polygraph examination refuting Karen Sypher's allegations," Pence
said.
"Her recent allegations to Louisville Metro Police Department
are false and just another part of the fraud she has tried to
perpetrate against Coach Pitino and his family," Pence said in a
statement. "Facing federal charges, she is now attempting to
create a defense."
Cunagin Sypher's attorney, Thomas Clay, filed a motion last
Thursday asking to withdraw from the case, citing irreconcilable
differences. The court has not yet ruled on the motion.
Clay told The Associated Press on Monday that while he remains
Cunagin Sypher's legal counsel, "I am not authorized, nor will I
speak about anything involving her."
The Associated Press could not reach Cunagin Sypher for comment.
Calls to a cell phone number that she has used in the past did not
go through.
No trial date was set after prosecutors and Clay agreed last
month that they needed more time to review evidence in the case.
Cunagin Sypher's longtime friend, Lester Goetzinger, has been
charged with taking part in the alleged extortion plot.
Goetzinger reached a deal with prosecutors that, in exchange for
having his record cleared, he would testify against Cunagin Sypher.
Prosecutors say Goetzinger left three voicemail messages on
Pitino's unlisted cell phone number between Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 at
Cunagin Sypher's request. Goetzinger's attorney, John Berry of
Louisville, said Cunagin Sypher traded sexual favors in exchange
for the phone calls.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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