Court Denies Karen Sypher New Trial in Rick Pitino Extortion Plot - Criminal Law - U.S. Sixth Circuit
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Court Denies Karen Sypher New Trial in Rick Pitino Extortion Plot

Karen Sypher is infamous in Kentucky.

In 2010, Sypher was convicted on six counts associated with an extortion plot to demand a house and cash from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. Judge Charles R. Simpson III sentenced Sypher to over seven years in prison and two years of supervised release for the "brazen" crime, reports The Courier-Journal.

Sypher claimed that she had ineffective counsel, and asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for a new trial. This week, the appellate court rejected her direct appeal.

Before we get into the court's reasoning, let's revisit the facts that landed Sypher in jail.

Karen Sypher claimed that Rick Pitino raped and impregnated her in 2003. Pitino says the encounter was consensual.

Sypher's friend, Lester Goetzinger, testified that in February 2009, Sypher told him her side of the Pitino story, gave him Pitino's cell phone number, and asked him to call Pitino and request a house and between $200,000 and $400,000. Sypher allegedly asked that Goetzinger make the calls from a payphone so that they could not be traced. Goetzinger testified that he subsequently made three calls to Pitino's cell phone, and left anonymous voice messages each time.

After a jury convicted her on all counts, Sypher filed a direct appeal with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming ineffective counsel, among other grounds for a new trial.

The Sixth Circuit announced this week that Sypher had "advanced no arguments of merit on appeal."

The court noted that it rarely reviews ineffective counsel claims on direct appeal because such claims "must be addressed in the first instance by a district court."

Sypher didn't pursue her ineffective assistance of counsel claim in the district court, so the record was not sufficiently developed to address her ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct appeal.

The three-judge panel that heard arguments in the appeal warned Sypher's attorney, David Nolan, that raising ineffective counsel arguments on direct appeal was a bad strategy because it meant waiving Sypher's ability to bring the claim up in a later proceeding, Lex18.com reports.

Thursday, Nolan told The Courier-Journal that he would continue appealing to the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court, if necessary.

What do you think? Is Karen Sypher's direct appeal doomed, or will different judges be more sympathetic to her ineffective counsel arguments?

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