Friday, August 21, 2009
Prosecutors seek psychiatric tests
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A woman charged with trying to extort $10 million from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino may be so mentally incompetent that she does not understand the legal proceedings and may not be able to assist in her own defense, federal prosecutors said Friday in asking a judge to order a psychological exam.
In a motion filed in federal court, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson to order the exam for Karen Cunagin Sypher, 49, based on "a multitude of factors." The reasons for their request were included in sealed documents.
Sypher has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of trying to extort money from Pitino and lying to the FBI. She is accused of demanding college tuition for her children, that her house be paid off and $10 million in exchange for keeping quiet about allegations involving Pitino.
James Earhart, Sypher's attorney, said he's not sure what prompted the request for the psychological examination.
"I didn't file it, so I don't know," Earhart told The Associated Press. He declined to further address the motion's claims about his client.
Prosecutors also asked Simpson to issue a protective order barring Earhart and Sypher from making public any evidence or statements turned over in the case. The motion did not blame Earhart, and he said he still has not received evidence from prosecutors in the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn Jr. wrote in the motion that the case has received national publicity compounded by Sypher granting interviews to local and national news outlets.
"Her stories have fueled both local and national media frenzy for ever more salacious and scandalous details," Kuhn wrote.
The widespread publicity threatens to taint a possible jury pool and rob Sypher of a fair trial, Kuhn wrote.
A status conference in the case is scheduled Aug. 28. No trial date has been set. Pitino's attorney, Steve Pence, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.
The motion for a protective order detailed alleged efforts by Sypher to publicize allegations against Pitino, claims that local prosecutors have said are "void of credibility" and would not be pursued.
"A short overview of the vigorous publicity efforts by the defendant in this case underscores the dangers of additional publicity and illustrates that the publicity sought has been for no legitimate purpose," Kuhn wrote.
Sypher claimed to Louisville police, after she was charged in federal court, that she had been raped by Pitino, who denied the claims in an interview with police.
He acknowledged in the interview that he had been drinking in a Louisville restaurant and had consensual sex with Sypher in August 2003.
Pitino also said Sypher told him she was going to have an abortion but didn't have health insurance, so he gave her $3,000, according to the police report. Pence has said Pitino believed the money was for medical insurance, not an abortion.
Pitino has since publicly apologized for what he called an "indiscretion," and said will continue coaching the Cardinals "as long as they will have me."
In asking for the protective order, prosecutors said Sypher had turned over to a Louisville television station tapes of calls to Pitino, as well as abortion records.