Published August 26, 2009
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Wednesday a sex scandal involving a woman accused of trying to extort him has been "pure hell" for his family, and that the airing of her claims made him angry enough to speak out against his lawyer's advice.
Pitino spoke at a hastily called news conference hours after Louisville police released audio and video recordings of phone calls and an interview with Karen Cunagin Sypher, the woman at the heart of the scandal. Pitino has told police that he had sex with her six years ago.
Sypher claims in the interview that Pitino sexually assaulted her. Prosecutors did not pursue charges against Pitino, and Sypher is now accused of trying to extort millions from the coach. She has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of extortion and lying to the FBI.
The coach lashed out at the media for again reporting on her accusations by airing clips of the interviews Wednesday.
"Everything that's been printed, everything that's been reported, everything that's been breaking in the news on the day Ted Kennedy died is 100 percent a lie, a lie," Pitino said. "All of this has been a lie, a total fabrication of the truth."
The married father of five, who's also a devout Roman Catholic, said the scandal has taken a heavy toll on his wife and family.
"It has been pure hell for her and my family," he said.
"I admitted to you I made a mistake, and believe me I will suffer for that mistake," he added.
Pitino's remarks were his first public statements since a five-minute apology two weeks ago for an "indiscretion" with Sypher at a Louisville restaurant in 2003. Sypher later told Pitino she was pregnant, planned to have an abortion but did not have medical insurance. He told police he gave her $3,000, money his attorney Steve Pence said was for insurance, not an abortion.
Pitino didn't plan on publicly addressing the situation again, preferring to let the case go to trial when he says "the truth will come out." Pitino didn't discuss details of the case at the news conference and said that his lawyer had advised him against speaking out at all.
Instead, he opted to come forward on Wednesday after a local news station aired portions of Sypher's interview.
"Enough's enough, everybody is tired of it," Pitino said. "We need to get on with the important things in life like the economy and really some crucial things in life like basketball."
The video was released under the Kentucky Open Records Act. It shows Sypher sitting across a table from Louisville Police Sgt. Andy Abbott. A full transcript of the interview was released by police earlier this month.
At times, Sypher's voice got low or high as she emphasized certain points and she periodically gestured with her hands as she described her encounter with Pitino.
In an interview with police that was not taped but was summarized in a police report, Pitino said the encounter with Sypher was consensual. Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said Pitino's interview wasn't taped because his attorney accompanied him to the interview.
Federal prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson to order a mental exam for Sypher, saying she may not be competent to understand the proceedings against her or assist in her own defense in the extortion case. Sypher's attorney had not responded to that request as of Wednesday.
Pitino has kept a low profile since his apology, focusing on preparing the Cardinals for the 2009-10 season. He was involved in individual workouts on Wednesday, and updates on the Twitter pages of several players indicated nothing except another series of grueling drills.
Pitino said Lousville would continue to be a Top 10 program despite the scandal.
"It has not hurt recruiting one bit. We will still bring in Top 10 players," he said.