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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Updated: August 12, 12:47 PM ET
Report: Pitino says he paid for abortion

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Louisville coach Rick Pitino told police that he had consensual sex with and paid for an abortion for the woman who has been charged with trying to extort him, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported on Tuesday.

Karen Cunagin Sypher was federally charged in April with demanding cars, tuition for her children and finally $10 million. Police interviewed Pitino, who is married with five children, regarding the incident last month, and according to the newspaper, he said that he gave the woman $3,000 to have an abortion.

Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino reportedly revealed details of his relationship with a woman who has been charged with extorting him.

Police records obtained by the Courier-Journal show that, according to Pitino, the then Karen Cunagin approached him in a Louisville restaurant where he had been drinking on Aug. 1, 2003, and the two had sex later that night.

The two met when Sypher approached him at the restaurant and asked him call her sons with words of encouragement, and the coach obliged, she said. Later that night, the restaurant cleared out, and the owner left the coach his keys. That's when they had sex.

Pitino denied Cunagin Sypher's allegations that he raped her at the restaurant and then again later at a different location.

Cunagin Sypher's attorney, James Earhart, said Wednesday morning that he hadn't yet talked to Sypher about the release of the police documents, but planned to later in the day. He said he didn't know how it would affect the case against her since all those involved were already aware of the documents.

Pitino told police that Cunagin Sypher called him about two weeks after the initial encounter and said that she was pregnant. They arranged to meet at the condominium of Louisville strength coach Tim Sypher, whom she did not know at that time but would later marry.

According to the police report, Pitino told her that he had five children and she had four, and that he didn't know what he wanted to do. Pitino said Cunagin Sypher had decided to get an abortion but claimed to not have health insurance. Pitino then gave her the $3,000. He told police that the two did not have sex at the condo or at any other location.

Sources close to Pitino refuted the account in the police report, telling ESPN.com's Andy Katz that the $3,000 was provided by the coach to help Cunagin Sypher with health insurance.

According to the report, Cunagin Sypher married Tim Sypher about six months later and, though she saw Pitino at team events, he claims there was never "any strange behavior." Cunagin Sypher and Tim Sypher are now estranged and divorce proceedings have been initiated.

The criminal complaint said Tim Sypher brought Pitino a written list of demands from his wife, including college tuition for her children, two cars, money to pay off her house and $3,000 per month. The demands later escalated to $10 million, the complaint said. Tim Sypher has not been charged in the case.

Cunagin Sypher reported the alleged rapes on July 9, about two months after she was indicted for extortion and lying to the FBI.

Sgt. Andy Abbott, the commander of the police department's sex offense unit, asked Cunagin Sypher during one interview why she waited until after she was indicted on the extortion charge to report her allegations.

She gave varying answers, according to transcripts, saying she wanted to forget about it, then that Pitino threatened her and finally that "they kept throwing crumbs to keep me happy." She didn't say what they were, the newspaper reported.

Abbott asked Cunagin 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," Cunagin Sypher responded.

Abbott said in a report that Sypher didn't say another person was at Porcini Restaurant during the first incident. The police report says a Pitino assistant, Vinnie Tatum, was there during the encounter and heard what sounded like consensual sex.

According to Abbott's report, Tatum said he didn't see what happened but heard "only the sounds of two people that seemed to be enjoying themselves during a sexual encounter."

Abbott said records indicate that Pitino was in California when Cunagin Sypher claimed she was sexually assaulted the second time.

Louisville commonwealth's attorney David Stengel declined to prosecute the case in July.

A message Wednesday for Tatum at his office in the university's basketball practice facility was not immediately returned.

Steven Pence, Pitino's lawyer, told ESPN.com on Tuesday night that there is no reason why Pitino would take a leave of absence in light of the information from his client's police interview being made public.

"I can't see any reason why the coach would take a leave of absence for being victimized by a woman like this," Pence said. "He doesn't deserve to be punished for something he hasn't done. I can see no reason why he would take a leave of absence when he was being extorted. He has done nothing illegal."

Kenny Klein, assistant athletic director in charge of communications at Louisville, added that Pitino hasn't made any suggestion that he would leave the program.

Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich reiterated Wednesday to ESPN.com that he is "one million percent behind coach Pitino." Jurich said he would make a more formal statement later Wednesday.

At least one coach close to Pitino told ESPN.com that there was no reason to believe Pitino would step away from coaching.

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."

Louisville University president James Ramsey said his thoughts were with Pitino and his family.

"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," he said in a statement.

If the coach wasn't forthcoming about the scandal with his employer, the consequences could be more severe than negative headlines. Pitino's contract with the university includes clauses that outline reasons for termination. Listed among the reasons is: "Employee's dishonesty with Employer or University; or acts of moral depravity."

The contract, which runs through 2013, also includes among the grounds for firing "disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer or University, if such publicity is caused by Employee's willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring Employee into public disrepute or scandal."

Pitino hired longtime friend Ralph Willard, former head coach at Holy Cross, to be his top assistant in June. But Klein said there was no indication when Willard was hired that he would take over for Pitino on an interim basis.

Pence told ESPN.com that Pitino's involvement in the case would be for only one day when he is called as a witness, adding that there will not be any legal burden on Pitino during the trial. The date of the trial is still pending.

"The coach is a witness," Pence said. "He's not subject to any penalty. He's not reporting to a probation officer. He's a witness. He'll show up one time and that will be it. This is not Pitino vs. Sypher. It's the United States government vs. Sypher."

On Wednesday, Pence said he's asked the court to expedite a trial date for sometime prior to the start of the basketball season, though he acknowledged he is at the mercy of the court system.

"We will have this tried in court," Pence said. "We're not going to address the facts in this case until the time is right and that time right now is a pending federal trial."

Pitino isn't expected to make any public statements on the matter until he is in court.

Pitino is Catholic and brings along close friend and spiritual adviser, the Rev. Edward Bradley -- a priest in Henderson, Ky. -- on many team trips. Bradley often prays with the team before games and is a fixture near the Louisville bench.

There was no answer late Tuesday at the priest's office where he also lives.

Earhart told the Courier-Journal he hadn't received the records and couldn't comment. The newspaper obtained the records under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

The case became public in April when Pitino released a statement saying someone had tried to extort him. Pitino said he reported it to the FBI, and Sypher surrendered to authorities a few days later when she was named in a criminal complaint. At the time, several media outlets declined to air interviews with Sypher about allegations against Pitino because they were personal and unsubstantiated.

Pitino just finished his eighth season with the Cardinals, leading Louisville to a 31-6 record and the Big East regular-season and tournament titles. The Cardinals lost to Michigan State in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.

Pitino has coached two NBA teams. He went 90-74 with the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989 and 102-146 with the Celtics from 1997 to 2001.

ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.