Alleged Pitino Extortioner Says She Was “Set Up”

Karen Sypher is not a criminal mastermind. We’re not sure if she’s even a criminal - that’s for the courts to decide, after all - but if she were, she’s clearly not very good at it.

Karen Sypher With Attorney, Some Dude
(She’s the one in the middle.)

Take, for example, her latest statements to the media. According to the ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sypher is now claiming to have been framed in the entire Rick Pitino extortion debacle (must have been the one-armed man instead), saying she was “set up from the very beginning.” No, seriously:

“I feel like I’m in a horrible movie that is just … ,” she said, trailing off during an interview in the office of her attorney, Thomas Clay. “I was set up from the very beginning and I’m still being set up and I am going to prove my innocence.”

Federal prosecutors accuse her of demanding the good life — cars, a house and $10 million — from one of college basketball’s millionaire superstar coaches in exchange for keeping quiet about what an FBI affidavit characterizes as unsubstantiated allegations describing “an interaction between Mr. Pitino and an unnamed woman as criminal in nature.”

She’s right; this would in fact be a horrible movie. Are Pitino’s lawyers sympathetic to her latest claim? Well, as Pitino might say, Sympathy’s not walking through that door! Credulity’s not walking through that door!

“The notion that she is being set up is absolutely ridiculous,” said Pitino’s attorney, Steve Pence of Louisville. “Karen Sypher is charged with a very serious crime and she is looking at very serious time in jail if she is convicted.”

She’s still got supporters, of course. That includes her son, whose protest hinted at what might have been behind the alleged extortion attempt. But public opinion doesn’t account for much when you’re caught lying to federal investigators about an alleged eight-figure extortion.

And look. Perhaps there’s some external actor in this whole thing that we don’t know about, whose involvement ties everything together in a way that exonerates Sypher in the end (for an example, watch any episode of Law & Order ever).

But we’re not really ready to entertain the notion that at no point did Sypher ever expect a substantial sum of money from Pitino if the plan went as, um, planned. If she’s lying to the feds about whether she knows who’s calling Pitino to make the threats and she never put a stop to the extortion herself, then common sense dictates that at some point she knew she stood to profit handsomely (and illegally) from the coach. Understandable, perhaps, but that would be a very serious crime all the same.