Police report: Maine West coach witnessed sexual hazing, congratulated victim
BY JON SEIDEL and BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporters November 28, 2012 10:56AM
At the law firm of Romanucci & Blandin, a parent who did not want her identity disclosed, talked about transferring her son from Maine West to Maine East after she reported hazing of a sexual nature against her son on the baseball team at Maine west in spring of 2008. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
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- Lawsuit: Sex assaults part of Maine West soccer team hazing ritual
- Attorney says more Maine West soccer hazing victims have come forward
- Maine West High School soccer players, coaches accused of ‘misconduct’
- A rallying cry for young athletes
- Editorial: Maine West High School allegations are worse than hazing
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:42PM
When a soccer player at Maine West High School was sexually assaulted on the school campus in July in an apparent act of hazing, Des Plaines police were told the school’s varsity soccer coach watched it happen.
He even allegedly congratulated the victim, welcomed him “and asked him if it was all good.”
That was reported to police by the school’s principal Oct. 3, right after she learned of it and days after a group of varsity soccer players allegedly did the same thing to three 14-year-old players Sept. 27.
An attorney for two of the 14-year-olds said their teammates pulled down their underwear and sodomized them with fingers and sticks.
And now police reports released Wednesday by the Des Plaines Police Department reveal a disturbing new set of allegations involving soccer coach Michael Divincenzo. They include a claim that he threatened to have varsity players assault freshmen if they didn’t start “communicating.”
The reports, along with an expanding lawsuit against Maine Township High School District 207, also suggest a larger hazing culture sanctioned by the coach at the northwest suburban school district.
One of the players allegedly involved in the hazing is quoted in a police report as saying “‘everyone’ agreed to initiate freshmen, and an initiation is to take a freshman down,” sodomize them with their fingers and give them “wedgies.”
Multiple parents also told police they didn’t want the alleged assaults of their sons investigated.
District officials, however, said they don’t tolerate hazing and are investigating. Police reports show several assaults were reported by school administrators.
The lawyer behind the lawsuit, Chicago-based Tony Romanucci, is calling on the Maine Township school board to fire Divincenzo and another coach, Emilio Rodriguez, as well as Maine West High School Principal Audrey Haugan and Supt. Ken Wallace.
“It’s clear that these individuals should not be around children,” Romanucci said. “They have not exercised proper and appropriate judgment. ...What they did is wrong.”
Students and former players, though, have defended the coach known as “Divo.”
One Des Plaines police report indicates an unnamed soccer coach made the varsity team do push-ups and apologize after the alleged hazing in September.
Over the summer, one player told police, Divincenzo stopped them from “messing with another player” and told them to get back to practice.
So far the coach, himself, has ignored several phone calls from the Sun-Times seeking comment. He asked a reporter to leave when visited Wednesday at his apartment building in Elk Grove Village.
“I just have no comment right now,” Divincenzo repeatedly said.
The coach remains reassigned from his coaching duties with pay. So does Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, district officials said the allegations made in September “were acted upon immediately” — police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services were contacted.
DCFS and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment, but Des Plaines police have already charged six students as juveniles with misdemeanor battery and hazing.
Ten students have also been disciplined.
The school’s own investigation now includes a 2008 incident the district acknowledged earlier this week in which a freshman baseball player’s pants were pulled down in the school locker room.
That incident was the focus of a news conference Wednesday at the offices of the boy’s attorney, Romanucci.
The baseball player’s mother, who wore a hat and sunglasses at the news conference and didn’t give her name, wrote in a 2008 letter to Principal Haugan that Divincenzo saw other players taunting her son on bus rides and did nothing to stop it. A redacted version of that letter, in which she successfully sought a transfer for her son in August 2008 from Maine West to Maine East, was provided to the media.
The mother said the players told her son they hated him, and at the team banquet she said her son was the only player not to get a certificate of participation.
When she told school officials, the mother said she got assurances it would be taken care of.
“They did nothing,” the mother said.
Maine Township officials said that while the 2008 incident was reported to the high school in August of that year, it only came to the attention of Supt. Wallace on Nov. 16. Students had been disciplined earlier at the school level.
Romanucci also represents the two 14-year-olds and one other boy who said they were assaulted by players while on the Maine West boy’s soccer team.
The two 14-year-olds said they were attacked by older varsity teammates on Sept. 27. The lawsuit alleges the older players tore off their underwear, held them down, grabbed their testicles and sodomized them.
A fourth plaintiff said he was assaulted the same way when he joined the varsity squad as a freshman in 2007. He said he the attack happened in July or August and September of that year.