Trial date set for ex-coach in Maine West hazing

October 15, 2013 3:45:50 PM PDT
A Cook County judge has set a criminal trial date of Dec. 17 for a former northwest suburban soccer coach charged in a hazing scandal at the school.

Prosecutors charged Michael Divincenzo, 37, of Elk Grove Village, in May with misdemeanor battery, hazing and failure to report abuse. Divincenzo has denied guilt "of any kind," and his attorney, Thomas Breen, said Tuesday, "I've yet to see why or how he got charged."

The charges against Divincenzo, which prosecutors say are unique, revolve around similar reported incidents in June, August and September of 2012 at Maine West High School.

Prosecutors said students at the school in Des Plaines would push others to the ground, hold them down and, in some cases, sodomize them through their underwear. Prosecutors said the victims were attacked by students under Divincenzo's supervision, and that he knew about the initiations and failed to report them.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez also said she dropped misdemeanor charges filed last year against six teens - the alleged perpetrators - because it was clear the victims didn't want to press charges against their peers.

In addition to the criminal charges, the hazing allegations have so far cost Divincenzo his job and led to the filing of two lawsuits against the coach, the school principal, Maine Township High School District 207 and a former freshman soccer coach, Emilio Rodriguez, the school board has also voted to fire.

An unnamed 16-year-old soccer player filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court August 26, 2013. He said he was forced to the ground and physically and sexually assaulted by older teammates during a campus run in September of 2012.

This newest complaint is similar to a lawsuit filed on behalf of two other soccer players who said they were sexually assaulted during a hazing ritual in 2012.

"It's unfortunate now that Maine West has become the national poster child for hazing, sexual abuse and scandal regarding sports in the United States," Tony Romanucci, attorney, said.

Romanucci says Maine Township administrators have known about hazing at Maine West for several years but did nothing to stop it.

"Had enforcement been completed and done in 2008, we wouldn't be here today," Romanucci said.

Romanucci says the abuse happened underneath the school bleachers and that since then his client has been dealing with shame and fear. The boy's mother said in a written statement that she learned about the abuse from the school. She wrote, "We saw our child changing and I could not understand why. The sport that he once loved became a sport that he no longer wanted to be a part of. He became depressed and angry most of the time."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.


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