Michael DiVincenzo, who was a coach at Maine West High School, had nothing to say as he walked into court for the routine status hearing on his misdemeanor hazing charges. The 37-year-old has denied any knowledge of hazing at the school. He let his attorney do the talking for him Monday.
"You're gonna find out he's a very good coach, a very good person. He had nothing to do with whatever might have occurred way beyond his observation," defense Attorney Tom Breen said.
After an investigation by the Cook County state's attorney's office, DiVincenzo was charged with one count of hazing, three counts of battery and four counts of failure to report abuse.
A civil suit also claims he sanctioned a hazing culture that led to the sexual assault of at least three soccer players and one baseball player before and during practice last year.
Prosecutors in the criminal cases say multiple soccer players were sodomized with fingers or sticks by older teammates.
"He never condoned any of this conduct. He did not know about any of this conduct. When there was a hint that something occurred, he disciplined those involved," said Breen "What occurred has been exaggerated to the point of almost disbelief on our part."
Cook County prosecutors say they looked into more allegations going back to 2007, but there was not enough evidence in those cases.
DiVincenzo, known as coach Divo, was fired from the school after hazing allegations surfaced. An attorney for the victims in the civil suit attended the hearing Monday to show support for the prosecution.
"These are minors and children involved, and they look up to adults to know and to believe what the right thing is, and in this case, he didn't do the right thing, in our opinion," said Rebekah Williams, co-counsel for an alleged victim.
If convicted, DiVincenzo could get supervised probation or spend some time in prison.