Legal Ethics

Divorce Lawyer to Testify Against Ex-Client in High-Profile Rick Pitino Extortion Trial

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A little over a year ago, matrimonial attorney Dana Kolter wrote a letter for his client Karen Sypher.

In it, he asked for $10 million from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, threatening to make public, in Karen Sypher’s divorce case from Pitino’s equipment manager, Tim Sypher, an allegation that Pitino had raped her years earlier.

Now Kolter is planning to testify against his onetime client in a high-profile criminal case in which she is accused of attempting to extort money from Pitino by falsely claiming to have been raped, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

As the trial began today, the government portrayed the 50-year-old Sypher as a liar whose consensual relationship with Pitino began with a restaurant-booth encounter in 2003, reports the Associated Press. She only reported the claimed 2003 rape—which was determined to be unfounded—in 2009 to retaliate against Pitino for going to the feds with the extortion case against her, the prosecution contends.

The government also alleges in filings in the Louisville federal court case that Sypher had an “intimate, personal relationship” with Kolter to “inveigle him to act on her behalf” by making the $10 million demand, then lied to investigators in the extortion case about the nature of that relationship, the Courier-Journal recounts.

Meanwhile, Kolter was not charged, and the defense is expected to point the finger at him and say that Sypher should have been able to trust her lawyer to advise her properly.

While the retaliation charge carries the heftiest potential sentence, if Sypher is convicted—a maximum of 10 years—it may be difficult for the government to prove that she was not, in fact, raped by Pitino, predicts professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School Los Angeles.

The government, she tells the newspaper, may find that “turning this into a rape case” was a mistake.

Another Courier-Journal article profiles the cast of characters in the case.

Related earlier coverage: “David Letterman’s Lawyer Wore Wire to Get Evidence re Alleged Extortion Attempt” “Letterman Blackmail Suspect Pleads Guilty, Gets 6 Months” “Prominent Lawyer Indicted, Accused of Extortion Attempt in Settlement Talks”

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