Maine Township spending in hazing investigation so far: nearly $74,000
BY JON SEIDEL AND BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporters May 2, 2013 5:32PM
Updated: June 4, 2013 6:15AM
A former federal prosecutor used to taking on mobsters is now looking into the Maine West High School hazing scandal, and it doesn’t come cheap for the northwest suburban school district that hired him.
Maine Township High School District 207 enlisted Sergio Acosta in January to delve into accusations of sexual abuse among members of the boys soccer team after it voted to fire two coaches accused of sanctioning the so-called hazing.
In its first 35 days on the job, Acosta’s firm, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, charged the school district nearly $74,000 for about 352 hours of work and other expenses, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. Those bills have been paid in full after the school board approved them in April, district spokesman Dave Beery said.
The records reflect work done between Jan. 25 and Feb. 28. Beery said the inquiry is ongoing — bills could still roll in for work done in March and April — but he said the investigation could wrap up soon.
Once that happens the firm is expected to deliver a public report to the board, Beery said.
The claims being investigated have already prompted a lawsuit, misdemeanor charges for six teenagers and an ongoing review by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. A spokeswoman for that agency said its review is in the final stages.
It all happened after multiple soccer players came forward last fall to say they’d been sexually assaulted by teammates under the guise of hazing. They said their teammates pulled down their underwear and sodomized them with fingers and sticks.
Acosta declined to comment on his investigation, but the bills from his firm, which total $73,797, show he has assembled a team of at least seven additional people.
They began their work by getting up to speed on the case and reviewing the pending lawsuit, district policies and hundreds of pages of documents that include emails and personnel files of specific employees.
Acosta’s team has also scrutinized relevant social media accounts and interviewed at least 11 school and district employees identified only by their initials, according to the documents.
And they discussed and reviewed documents the school district submitted to the state’s attorney’s office. The Sun-Times first reported a Cook County grand jury last year issued subpoenas seeking documents from school officials.
Maine Township’s school board voted in December to fire varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo, who was not only accused of sanctioning the abuse but also of witnessing an assault in July and asking the victim if it “was all good” when it was over.
He initially asked for a hearing to challenge his termination, but he dropped that fight last month after he struck a deal with the board and publicly denied any wrongdoing.
The board also voted to fire freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez, who is still pursuing a hearing and has told police he didn’t know about the hazing.
Both men are targets of a lawsuit filed on behalf of three unidentified soccer players — two who said they were assaulted last year and one who said he was attacked in 2007 — and a baseball player who said he was hazed in 2008 on a team coached by Divincenzo.
Maine West High School Principal Audrey Haugan is also named in the lawsuit.