Fifth Maine West student claims sex assault in soccer hazing ritual
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter August 26, 2013 5:02PM
Maine West High School in Des Plaines | Sun-Times files
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:11AM
A fifth Maine West High School athlete has stepped forward to claim in a new lawsuit that he was sexually assaulted in a hazing ritual at the school in the northwest suburbs.
Chicago lawyer Tony Romanucci filed the complaint Monday on behalf of the 16-year-old boy and his parents, none of whom are identified by name. The suit targets Maine Township High School District 207, Principal Audrey Haugan and former soccer coaches Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez.
The boy claims he was sexually assaulted on Sept. 26 at the school in Des Plaines after Divincenzo and Rodriguez ordered the team to do a “campus run.”
Romanucci accused the boy’s teammates of tearing off the boy’s pants and underwear, pushing him to the ground, shoving his face in the dirt, punching him, grabbing his testicles and sodomizing him with fingers and sticks.
The lawyer said it happened behind a set of bleachers at the school. And he said Divincenzo, who already has been criminally charged, sanctioned the abuse along with Rodriguez.
Two of the four other alleged victims who already have sued said the same thing happened to them the next day. Romanucci also said his new client is coming forward now because he’s dealing with a lot of “guilt and shame.”
“He’s been through horror,” Romanucci said. “He’s been through embarrassment, shame, guilt, fear.”
The boy’s mother said in a written statement that she learned about the abuse from the high school.
“We saw our child changing and I could not understand why,” she said. “He was being abused and we had no idea. The sport that he once loved became a sport that he no longer wanted to be part of.”
Cook County prosecutors charged Divincenzo in May with misdemeanor battery, hazing and failure to report abuse. Those charges are still pending, and Divincenzo is expected back in court Oct. 15. He lost his job over the hazing claims.
But he has denied guilt “of any kind.” His attorney also questioned this spring whether the hazing alleged in the earlier lawsuit filed last fall even happened.
The Maine Township school board voted to fire Rodriguez, as well, but he is fighting that decision.
The district continues to deal with the fallout from the scandal. It hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an internal investigation and announced this week that it would kick off its Fall 2013 sports season with a presentation Tuesday from the Positive Coaching Alliance.
Divincenzo’s lawyer declined to talk about the new suit. A school district representative also chose not to comment, and Rodriguez did not respond to a phone message.
Contributing: Becky Schlikerman