New lawyer appointed in extortion case

Updated: August 1, 2009, 10:27 AM ET
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A former federal prosecutor was appointed Friday to represent a woman charged with trying to extort Louisville coach Rick Pitino, three weeks after her prior attorney quit the case citing "irreconcilable differences" with her.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James Moyer tapped James A. Earhart, who used to work in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's office in Louisville, to handle the case of Karen Cunagin Sypher. She has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of trying to extort money from Pitino and lying to the FBI.

Cunagin Sypher is accused of demanding college tuition for her children, her house to be paid off and, eventually, $10 million.

Cunagin Sypher's previous attorney, Thomas Clay, resigned from the case on July 9, but did not disclose the cause of the rift.

Cunagin Sypher would not comment after Friday's hearing.

During the hearing, Cunagin Sypher answered questions about her finances from Judge Moyer, disclosing that she has $1,600 monthly income from an ex-husband and Tim Sypher.

Moyer told Cunagin Sypher he didn't want to know the details about what caused the problems with Clay. Moyer then appointed Earhart, calling him "well familiar" with the federal criminal justice system. Moyer told Cunagin Sypher that cooperation is key to a case progressing smoothly.

"It's a two-way street," Moyer said. "The lawyer and client have to work together."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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