Story Summary

Maine West hazing incident

The mother of a freshman at Maine West High School in northwest suburban Des Plaines are suing the Maine Township School District over an alleged hazing incident. The lawsuit claims the teen was beaten and sexually assaulted by older players in September. The school confirms that a hazing incident did occur at the school in 2008 but no other details have been released.

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A former northwest suburban soccer coach was found not guilty in a high profile hazing scandal.

Michael Divincenzo was found not guilty Wednesday on charges of hazing, battery and failure to report child sexual abuse  related to a soccer team hazing scandal at Maine West High School in Des Plaines.

“It’s very hard. I just really appreciate that I have such great people behind me. Thank you,” Divincenzo said.

The 37-year-old former soccer coach was overwhelmed after his acquittal thanking fellow teachers and former players for their support.

“I’m just very grateful,” he said.

Divincenzo was charged in connection to hazing between male soccer players at the high school that came to light in fall of 2012. The hazing involved younger boys being sexually assaulted during iniation rituals.

Most parents and students at Maine West refused to speak with WGN.

The attorney representing five of the victims in a civil suit against Divincenzo says the acquittal will not impact their case.

The former Maine West High School soccer coach is found not guilty on Wednesday on all counts in a hazing scandal.

Michael Divincenzo was originally charged with hazing, battery, and failing to report the hazing.

During his trial, two former freshmen testified varsity players were sexually abusive during hazing rituals in 2012. They claimed Divincenzo ordered the varsity players to do 100 push ups and apologize when he learned about the attack.

Prosecutors argued he violated state law by not calling the police right away. But, the judge threw-out the “failure to report” count Wednesday morning because a coach isn’t required to report abuse between students.

The defense then rested right away, and the judge ruled not guilty on the other two charges.

Divincenzo was emotional after the trial.

“I’m just very grateful for my lawyers, and my family and my friends. And, it’s been very, very hard. And I just really appreciate I have such great people behind me. Thank you,” said Divincenzo.

He adds he doesn’t know if he’ll ever coach or teach again.

WGN News Writer C. Hayes published this story.

The hazing trial of a former Maine West soccer case is on hold.

In an unusual step, the judge put Michael Divincenzo’s criminal trial on hold until January 8th.

He’s considering whether to find Divincenzo not guilty without him even having to put on a defense.

Most such bids for a directed verdict of acquittal are routinely denied and the trail just goes on.

The ex-varsity coach is accused of failing to report sexually abusive hazing rituals.

The judge is asking for briefs from both sides by December 31st.

The trial for former Maine West soccer coach Michael Divincenzo began today after his players allegedly hazed freshmen athletes at the school.

Divincenzo’s role in the suspected hazing remains a question.

Divincenzo could have pled guilty and received probation but he wanted a judge to decide the case in hopes of clearing his name.

Divincenzo, who lost his job after the alleged incident, has been charged with misdemeanor counts of hazing, battery and failing to report abuse. Assistant State’s Attorney Margaret Ogarek said coaches are supposed to be advisers, and Divincenzo’s alleged failure to contact authorities after he learned of the abuse represented a betrayal of trust.

Defense attorney Todd Pugh’s opening statement did not address Divencenzo’s alleged failure to report. Pugh said, though, that the ex-coach did not see the alleged abuse, and when he heard about it, punished those responsible.

Attorneys said the trial could last through Thursday.

 

-Chicago Tribune contributed to this report

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.

The trial starts today for the former soccer coach accused of hazing high school athletes.

Jury selection begins today in the case of Michael Divencenzo.

He was fired from coaching the Maine West boys’ varsity team in Des Plaines after hazing allegations surfaced last fall.

Several boys accused older varsity players of sexually assaulting them.

Prosecutors say Divincenzo and other staffers knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it.

He is charged with misdemeanor hazing, battery, and failing to report abuse.

The lawsuit involving hazing at a suburban high school will proceed in December, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Five students at Maine West High School northwest suburban Des Plaines are suing the school district, the principal and two coaches over allegations of assault as part of hazing rituals for sports teams.

Defense attorneys wanted the case dismissed but the judge ruled today the case will continue and the next court date will be December 18.

A fifth student is suing Maine West High School and his former soccer coaches for sexual assault.

The lawsuit is against the school, its principal and coaches Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez.

The 16-year-old plaintiff says both coaches encouraged his teammates to haze him September 26.

“(Victim) was ‘rewarded’ for making the varsity boys’ soccer team in the following ways:  more senior members of the team grabbed him, forced him to the ground, and physically and sexually assaulted (him),” according to the lawsuit.

Two other lawsuits claim similar abuse happened to two other students the next day.

Divincenzo lost his job and is charged with misdemeanor battery, hazing, and failure to report abuse.

His next court date is October 15.

The Maine Township school board also voted to fire Rodriguez, but he is fighting that decision.

The school district has not commented on the lawsuit.

An attorney for the former Maine West High School soccer coach fired amidst a hazing scandal is questioning whether any hazing actually took place. divincenzo

Former coach Michael DiVincenzo appeared for a status hearing today in Cook County Court in Skokie, where he let his attorney do all the talking.

Attorney Thomas Breen says the ex-coach feels lost.  He says when the hype and hysteria die down, it will be clear his client is a good person and was a good coach.

Last month DiVincenzo turned himself in and was released on his own recognizance.

Today his defense team asked Cook County prosecutors to turn over up to 10,000 pages of documents and video in their case against the ex-Maine West High School soccer coach.

DiVincenzo is charged with hazing, battery, and failing to report abuse.  Prosecutors claim the hazing led to the sexual assaults of at least three soccer players and a baseball player.

In a civil lawsuit filed against Maine Township High School District 207, those students claim the coach knew about the hazing, allowed it to continue, and did nothing to stop it.

DiVincenzo’s lawyers maintain he did nothing wrong.

“He never condoned any of this conduct.  He did not know about this conduct,” attorney Thomas Breen told reporters today.  “When there was a hint that something occurred, he’d discipline those involved.  But what occurred has been exaggerated to the point of almost disbelief on our part.”

“These are minors and children involved, and they look up to adults to know when to believe what the right thing is,” said attorney Rebekah Williams, who represents the students in the civil suit.  “And in this case, he didn’t do the right thing in our opinion.”

DiVincenzo was fired over the allegations.  His attorney says there was horseplay between players, but he questions whether any hazing actually took place.

DiVincenzo returns to court in August.

The former Maine West High School soccer and baseball coach at the center of hazing allegations has been charged with multiple misdemeanors connected to those allegations, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said today.

37-year-old Michael Divincenzo is charged with hazing, failure to report abuse and battery, all Class A misdemeanor offenses.  The charges are based on alleged abuse that took place between June 1st and September 26th of last year at Maine West High School.

Four younger soccer players were hazed and sexually abused by older players.  While Divicenzo is not alleged to have participated in any sexual abuse or hazing, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez says he knew exactly what was going on.

michaeldivincenzomug“A number of younger players were assaulted by older players,” Alverez said at a news conference this afternoon.

During the news conference at the County Building, Alvarez also explained why the former Maine West teacher and coach is facing misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges.

“Based on evidence we believe the appropriate charge is battery,” she said.

Chicago attorney Antonio Romanucci is representing the students who were abused.  He says his clients are happy about the charges announced today.

“It is very satisfying to know that there’s some sense of vindication, “ he said.

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