LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The woman convicted of trying to extort millions of dollars from Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has reported to a federal prison in Florida to begin serving a sentence of more than seven years.
Karen Cunagin Sypher, 51, checked into the minimum-security federal women's prison in Marianna at 1:50 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, according to prison spokeswoman Jennifer Saad.
Sypher's attorneys have made repeated requests for her to remain free while she appeals convictions on charges of extortion, lying to the FBI and retaliating against a witness. Prosecutors say she sought millions from Pitino to stay quiet about a 2003 sexual encounter.
On Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati denied Sypher's latest request to stay out of prison, siding with a lower court judge who rejected the request last week.
Sypher's attorneys have asked the appeals court to reconsider the ruling.
While she is in the 313-bed prison in the Florida panhandle, Sypher will be required to have a job and have her room clean in advance of 7:30 a.m. inspections Monday through Friday, according to the facility's website.
Since being convicted in August, Sypher has hired a new legal team and claimed a broad conspiracy involving Pitino, the federal trial judge and Sypher's former attorney to ensure she would be found guilty. Her attorneys have also requested a new trial.
James Faller, an investigator on Sypher's legal team, said they will continue to fight for her release while her appeals are continuing.
They have asserted in recent court filings that phone calls to Pitino demanding money were made by more than one person, which contradicts testimony at the federal trial in Louisville. Lester Goetzinger testified that he made the three calls in exchange for sexual favors from Sypher, but Sypher's attorneys now say a different man made the third call, and without Sypher's knowledge. On that call to Pitino, the caller threatened to take the case to the media.
The trial judge, U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson, found that claim to be "wholly unsupported by evidence" in a ruling on Friday.
Pitino was called to testify at Sypher's trial. The coach, who has reached the NCAA Final Four at three different schools, said that he had sex with Sypher in an empty Louisville restaurant after she whispered to him and then unzipped his pants. Pitino said the sex lasted "15 seconds" and was "unfortunate."