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2 former players allege abuse during Maine West hazing trial of former coach Michael Divincenzo

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Former Maine West High School coach at Michael Divincenzo is accused of failing to report abuse among his soccer team after hazing allegations surfaced in 2012.

Divincenzo's trial began on Tuesday. Prosecutors say the 37-year-old coach from Elk Grove Village knew some members of his soccer team were being attacked by other students, which, in some cases, included sexual abuse as part of team initiation. The alleged attacks took place in June, August and September. Divincenzo is charged with misdemeanor battery, hazing and failure to report abuse.

In court, two of the alleged victims who were freshmen at the time said that in September 2012 varsity players at Maine Township tackled them, pulled down their shorts and poked sticks at them.

"The hazing was rampant. It went beyond child's play. He perpetuated it," prosecuting attorney Margaret O'Garek said.

Defense attorney Todd Pugh said the charges have ruined Divincenzo's life. He said the former coach never witnessed the incidents and punished the players who were allegedly involved.

"This case is about teens behaving badly. It's absolutely unprecedented that he is being held responsible for actions he didn't witness," Todd Pugh said.

Divincenzo was fired by Maine Township High School District 207 about a year ago.

Five former players have alleged they were victims of abuse. Many have filed a civil suit. Tony Romanucci is their attorney.

"These children were hold down, they were battered, they were sexually penetrated. The coaches knew what was going on," Romanucci.

Divincenzo waived his right to a jury trial. A judge will decide the case, and a decision could be reached as early as Friday.

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