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Friday, January 27, 2012
Ukrainian coach remains in custody

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- A Ukrainian hockey coach charged with fondling a teen player in Philadelphia will remain in custody until a bail hearing next week.

A public defender told a judge Friday that he needs more time to find local friends of Ivan Pravilov, 48, because Pravilov has not had access to his cell phone contacts while in custody. Defense lawyer Mark Wilson said he hopes to find someone willing to house Pravilov until trial.

Federal prosecutors oppose bail, calling the coach a danger and flight risk. There is also an Interpol warrant for his arrest stemming from a 2007 fight in the Ukraine, they said. The bail hearing will resume Wednesday.

Pravilov ran an elite hockey school in the Ukraine from the 1980s until about 2007, when he came to the U.S. to run camps for standout players from the U.S. and abroad. Players from the Ukraine and elsewhere typically enroll for about a month, staying with host families and traveling with Pravilov to various U.S. cities for tournaments and clinics.

On Jan. 3, he allegedly brought two 14-year-old Ukrainian boys to his Philadelphia apartment from a family home in Wilmington, Del., and fondled one of the boys during the night, according to the indictment returned Thursday. The other boy was later threatened in a locker room, authorities allege. A host parent contacted police.

Pravilov has been in custody since Homeland Security agents arrested him last week.

An official with the Ukrainian consulate in New York came to court Friday to monitor the hearing, but said he was not authorized to comment.

Pravilov faces six to eight years in prison if convicted of taking a minor over state lines for sexual purposes.

The charges come less than a month after Maxim Starchenko, one of Pravilov's former players, published a book alleging the coach regularly abused team members physically, mentally and sexually.

Starchenko, the author of "Behind the Iron Curtain: Tears in the Perfect Hockey 'Gulag,' " played for Pravilov from the age of 8 through 18.

"People need to know what happened," Starchenko said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. He added, "I hope others will tell their story, the way it was -- the way it really was."

Wilson, the assistant federal public defender representing Pravilov, declined to comment Friday on the case.

The coach's proteges include New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus, who's enjoyed a 15-year career in the NHL. Pravilov uses the Cherry Hill, N.J., home of Zubrus' mother as his permanent mailing address in the U.S.

Zubrus has not returned requests for comment left with his mother, Irene Zubriene. However, she has said she believes the accusations stem from lingering rivalries in the Ukraine.

"It's not true. It's not true," Zubriene told the AP last week. "Somebody wants to do for him (something) bad. It comes from the Ukraine."