Grand jury targets records in Maine West hazing investigation
BY JON SEIDEL AND BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporters January 14, 2013 5:30PM
Maine West High School in Des Plaines | Sun-Times files
Updated: February 16, 2013 6:13AM
A Cook County grand jury sought a wide range of records from the superintendent of the Maine Township school district and the principals of its three high schools as prosecutors began to review allegations of hazing there, subpoenas obtained by the Sun-Times show.
Maine Township High School District 207 officials refused until last week to even acknowledge the existence of the subpoenas. The Sun-Times continued to push for their release after breaking the news that they’d been issued, and the district relented Monday.
The subpoenas released by the district are dated just days after Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office announced a “complete and thorough, top-to-bottom” review that began Dec. 4 of hazing allegations at Maine West High School.
The district’s board has since voted to fire Maine West varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo for allegedly letting varsity players go on a “campus run” in September where they allegedly hazed less senior players by assaulting them and sodomizing them with fingers and sticks, among other accusations.
Similar claims are made in a lawsuit filed against the Maine Township schools that also names Divincenzo, freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez and Maine West High School Principal Audrey Haugan.
Divincenzo has asked for a hearing where he could contest his dismissal. In the meantime he is suspended without pay. He and Rodriguez have made no public comment despite several requests from the Sun-Times, but Des Plaines police reports show they have denied any knowledge of the alleged hazing.
The grand jury directed two subpoenas Dec. 6 to Haugan and Maine Township Supt. Ken Wallace.
The Haugan subpoena seeks “personnel files including any disciplinary records, reports, memorandums, summaries, interviews, investigations, notes, statements or other such writings or recordings for Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez, and any and all other employees associated with coaching student athletes from 2007 to the present time.”
From Wallace, the grand jury sought codes or rules covering student athletes, teachers and coaches, and any similar writings on the topics of “hazing, sexual misconduct or physical misconduct in any manner associated with Maine West High School.”
Finally, on Dec. 7, the grand jury directed four additional subpoenas to Wallace, Haugan, Maine East High School Principal Michael Pressler and Maine South High School Principal Shawn Messmer.
The district redacted a portion of those subpoenas, citing the right to protect students’ identities.
However, they show the grand jury sought “any and all letters, emails, reports, memorandums, call logs, writings, recordings, or other such material regarding” the redacted topic, “including any such documents from within the school records or school file.”
Haugan, Pressler and Messmer did not return calls Monday. Maine Township school officials said in a statement they’re cooperating fully with all agencies investigating the alleged hazing. Des Plaines police and child welfare officials have also looked into the matter.
The district is expected to hire an attorney to conduct another independent investigation into the hazing claims at a special school board meeting later this month.