Attorneys presented their opening statements today in the trial of a former Maine East High School soccer coach charged in connection with a hazing scandal. Michael Divincenzo has opted for a bench trial, rather than having a jury decide his fate.
Divincenzo, 37, walked into the Cook County courthouse in Skokie this morning, offering a simple “no comment” when he was asked if he had anything he wanted to say before the start of court.
Several former and current Maine West students have accused Divincenzo of knowing that they were being hazed and sexually abused by older students and doing nothing about it. In some cases, prosecutors say he even threatened younger players with hazing by varsity players.
The majority of the accusations center around the boys varsity soccer team and involved incidents in which older players pulled down younger players’ pants and sodomized them with their hands and other objects.
Tony Romanucci, the attorney handling the civil case that led to the criminal charges, says this has been a tremendous and horrible ordeal for his clients.
“They also feel like they’re victims of persecution,” Romanucci told reporters. “They are victims of embarrassment. They are victims of shame. They are victims of so many other things other than what happened to them on that field.”
“These children are carrying what happened with them, day in and day out,” Romanucci said.
Divincenzo has denied any wrongdoing. He is charged with hazing, battery and failing to report abuse, all misdemeanors that could leave him facing up to a year in jail if he is found guilty.
Reporters learned in court this morning that the state offered Divincenzo two years of supervision. He turned that down.
The civil case against Divincenzo, another coach, the school district and a principal is still working its way through the courts.