Hazing trial against accused ex-Maine West coach begins - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Young players testify in hazing trial against accused ex-Maine West coach

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SKOKIE, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

A former Maine West High School soccer coach criminally charged after brutal hazing allegations surfaced at the school last year went on trial in Skokie on Tuesday.

Michael Divincenzo, 37, of Elk Grove Village, is still beloved by several current and former students and players at the school in northwest suburban Des Plaines, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

But prosecutors said in May he knew some members of the soccer team he coached were being attacked by other students who would hold them down and, in some cases, sodomize them through their underwear.

Two sophomore soccer players testified Tuesday that the varsity players abused them with sticks and their fingers. They characterized the abuse as an initiation by varsity players.

Prosecutors say DiVincenzo knew what occurred and should have immediately reported the hazing higher-ups. He has been charged with misdemeanor battery, hazing and failure to report abuse. The allegations all revolve around similar reported incidents in June, August and September 2012.

But, DiVincenzo's attorneys say he had no clue such violent initiations were taking place.

DiVincenzo's lawyer Thomas Breen has previously questioned whether the hazing even took place, let alone whether Divincenzo knew about it.

"I've yet to see why or how he got charged," Breen said in October.

There was testimony that a freshman coach notified him of the incidents, but just how detail was provided to DiVincenzo is unclear. He did order varsity players to do 100 push-ups in front of the freshmen and to apologize to them, after the incidents.

Defense Attorney Todd Pugh said in his opening statement that, "upper classmen have always given underclassmen a hard time," saying there was good-natured razzing, and "when boundaries were crossed, there were consequences."

But prosecutor Margaret Ogarek said, "It was rampant. It went beyond child's play, it went beyond horseplay."

A former varsity player also testified, admitting that he participated in one of the initiations, but when he was asked whether coach DiVincenzo knew about the hazing, he said, no.

Divincenzo's supporters encouraged people on Facebook to attend Tuesday. One member of the Maine West boys soccer team told the Chicago Sun-Times this summer he's still inspired by the coach, who is affectionately known at the school as "Divo."

"He was our coach," said senior Jonathan Schmitz. "That's who we're playing for still."

The school district fired Divincenzo a year ago, after the hazing allegations first surfaced.

Its school board also voted to fire former freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez, who is fighting to keep his job.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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