Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Former Suns skater expelled from Venezuela

Tim Tracy jailed, released in international incident

Express Staff Writer

No Sun Valley Suns hockey player has ever played a more memorable final minute of his final game than Tim Tracy. Here, wearing next to nothing and recalling the movie “Slapshot,” Tracy celebrates his goal in the final 30 seconds of the Suns final game in 2002. Photo by Willy Cook

    Eleven years ago, Georgetown University alum Tim Tracy was a first-year defenseman for a Sun Valley Suns hockey team that put together one of the best seasons in franchise history with a 28-2 record.
    Tracy, fresh from college and enjoying the Idaho ski resort, scored only two goals in his 26 games. But he memorably scored the final of his team’s record-setting 211 goals—wearing nothing but his jockstrap, helmet, a few pads, skates and “Thanks, Fans,” scrawled across his bare butt.
    If you’re thinking the Paul Newman 1977 movie “Slapshot,” and the scene involving a Charlestown Chiefs player stripping his clothes off during an intense hockey game, that’s what Tracy was recreating—for a small wager—in the final minute of a lopsided 10-5 win capping the 30-game Suns season.
    He scored with 30 seconds left as the home fans howled with laughter. One teammate said afterward about Tracy’s willingness to bare virtually everything on a dare, “He’s a crazy, crazy kid so it didn’t take too much for him to do it.”
    Does that Idaho image of Tim Tracy, now 35, seem like he has something to hide?
    The Venezuelan government of newly elected President Nicolas Maduro thought so.
    Tracy, in Venezuela since last October making a documentary film about the country’s politics, was arrested April 26 by the Maduro government on charges of being a spy and trying to undermine the government. Tracy was arrested at the Caracas airport as he tried to leave the country for his father’s 80th birthday.
    He had described his time in Venezuela as a “rollicking adventure and a filmmaker’s dream” the New York Times reported at the time of his arrest. Tracy told the newspaper he had attempted in his film to portray both sides of Venezuela’s bitter political divide.
    Tracy’s co-producer on the Venezuelan documentary, Ricardo Korda, told the Associated Press that they met in 2001 while students at Georgetown and that the film’s working title was “Connecting the Dots.” Tracy had left Sun Valley in 2002 and gone to Los Angeles to become a filmmaker.
    His arrest in April became an international incident that enabled Maduro to use the U.S. as a political target while he battled opposition groups within his embattled country. It caused U.S. President Barack Obama to dismiss Venezuela’s “ridiculous” allegations that Tracy was a spy.
    Tracy was jailed for 40 days after his arrest, spending the final week of incarceration in the notorious El Rodeo prison.
    His release last Wednesday came through diplomatic efforts between the two countries that signaled a gesture to thaw tense relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, the Associated Press reported.
    Tracy’s family retained legal counsel and sought the help of former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) in securing his eventual release. That occurred June 5 when Tracy was expelled from Venezuela and returned to the U.S.
    From the outset of the incident, press freedom groups denied Tracy was involved in anti-government activities. Last Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca.), the chair of Congress’ Freedom of the Press Caucus, issued the following statement on Tracy’s release:
    “I was very pleased to learn the Venezuelan government has released Tim Tracy, a documentary filmmaker, after detaining him on trumped up charges..…His arrest and detention should serve as a powerful reminder of the need to guard our press freedoms vigorously at home and abroad.”
    Attempts to reach Tracy were unsuccessful.

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