Former Maine West coach appears in court on hazing charge
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Former Maine West High School head varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo made his initial court appearance Monday on charges of hazing, battery and failure to report abuse.
Though Divincenzo, 37, of Elk Grove Village did not speak at his hearing, defense attorney Thomas Breen later said the fired teacher did nothing wrong.
"You're going to find out he's a very good coach, a very good person," Breen told ABC 7 outside the Cook County courthouse in Skokie. "He had nothing to do with whatever might have occurred way beyond his observation."
Divincenzo's next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 7 in Skokie.
The Cook County state's attorney's office filed charges against Divincenzo last month as it dropped charges against six juveniles following a five-month investigation into the hazing allegations.
Two 14-year-old freshmen on the varsity boys soccer team first claimed last fall that they had been sexually assaulted by seniors inside the Des Plaines school as part of a hazing ritual.
A lawsuit was later filed alleging instances of hazing of a freshman baseball player and three freshman soccer players dating back to 2007, naming as defendants Maine Township High School District 207, the school's principal and soccer coaches Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez.
Both Divincenzo and Rodriguez were initially suspended without pay before later being fired.
"(Divincenzo) never condoned any of this conduct," Breen said outside court Monday. "He did not know about any of this conduct. When there was a hint that something occurred, he disciplined those involved. What occurred has been exaggerated to the point of almost disbelief on our part."
Though the criminal investigation examined allegations dating back to the 2007-08 school year, there wasn't enough evidence to file charges based on those older claims, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said.
Her office ultimately charged Divincenzo with one count of hazing, three counts of battery and four counts of failure to report abuse. The charges, all misdemeanors, are based on events that were reported to have occurred between June 1 and Sept. 26 last year.
If found guilty, Divincenzo could be sentenced to anything from supervised probation to one year in jail.
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