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Grand jury subpoenas issued in Maine West hazing case

Former Maine West Coach Michael Divincenzo pictured high school's 2010 yearbook.  |  Sun-Times files

Former Maine West Coach Michael Divincenzo, pictured in the high school's 2010 yearbook. | Sun-Times files

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Updated: February 7, 2013 6:17AM

Grand jury subpoenas have gone out in the Cook County state’s attorney’s now month-old investigation into alleged hazing at Maine West High School, sources told the Sun-Times.

Meanwhile, Michael Divincenzo, the varsity soccer coach at the center of the hazing scandal, appears to be gearing up for a fight with the northwest suburban school district.

Maine Township High School District 207’s board voted to fire Divincenzo last month. But state education officials confirmed Friday they received a formal request for a hearing where he’s expected to protest the charges the board made against him.

He made that request in a letter from Chicago lawyer Michael Forde — an attorney who represented Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he fended off challenges to his residency prior to becoming mayor.

Forde declined to further comment on the request for a hearing.

The hazing allegations have spawned multiple investigations — state child welfare officials have launched an investigation as did Des Plaines police and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office promised a “top-to-bottom” review; already six teens have been charged with misdemeanor hazing and battery, but no new charges have been filed in the case.

Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly would only say there is no timetable to finish the ongoing review by the office’s sex crimes division. It began in early December.

“We’re going to take as much time as is required to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of this matter,” Daly said.

The school district has declined to turn over copies of the subpoenas to the Sun-Times, even refusing to acknowledge they exist.

The Maine Township school board, which has promised to hire an attorney to conduct an independent investigation into the scandal, appears ready to take up that topic at its regular meeting Monday.

The school board chose not to wait until the end of Alvarez’s review to begin on Dec. 19 the process of firing Divincenzo for “failing to adequately prevent, recognize, report and punish student hazing.”

He had 17 days after receiving notice of the vote to ask for a hearing, and that deadline loomed this weekend. Meanwhile, he is suspended without pay and could recoup the money he’ll lose during his suspension if the board’s decision is overturned.

The school board, meanwhile, has left open the door to further staff discipline. None related to the hazing allegations is expected at Monday’s meeting.

Freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez and Maine West principal Audrey Haugan were named along with Divincenzo in a lawsuit filed against the district over the hazing allegations.

The coaches have not made themselves available for comment, despite numerous requests by the Sun-Times. Haugan also did not return calls this week.

But Des Plaines police reports indicate the coaches said they didn’t know about the hazing. Several former students have insisted the men would never condone it.

The school board’s resolution to fire Divincenzo accuses him of letting varsity soccer players dunk “less senior” players’ heads and grab their genitals in a hot tub at a training camp in Wisconsin last summer. It also said he knew baseball players he coached hit and pulled down the pants of another player in the locker room in 2008.

Finally, it said Divincenzo let older soccer players haze younger ones in July and September. Divincenzo is accused in police reports of watching an alleged assault in July, congratulating the apparent victim and asking “if it was all good.”

Those reports, and the lawsuit filed against the district, indicate older soccer players would initiate younger ones by sodomizing them with fingers and sticks.

One former player, identified as John Doe C in the lawsuit filed against the district, also told the Sun-Times exclusively in December he was attacked in a similar way twice by his teammates in summer 2007.

“I felt ashamed,” he said. “Strongly ashamed.”

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