A judge granted a trial date on Tuesday for a former Maine West High School soccer coach accused of sanctioning sexual hazing among student athletes.
Former varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo, 37, is charged with three counts of battery, one count of hazing and four counts of failure to report abuse among student athletes. His trial date is set for Dec. 17 at the Skokie Courthouse.
Divincenzo was wearing a navy suit on Tuesday and was accompanied by his mother. The duo sat in the third row before being called up by Judge Marguerite A. Quinn.
Prosecutors allege that Divincenzo forced freshmen students to allow varsity players to stick their thumbs up their buttocks if they failed to meet expectations during soccer drills, according to court documents. According to police, freshmen players were held down against their will while senior players sexually assaulted them. The allegations date back to 2007, but weren’t brought to light until May 2013.
Ultimately, Divincenzo lost his job. Another soccer coach, Emilio Rodriguez, was fired, but he’s currently fighting the school board’s decision.
Divincenzo’s attorney, Thomas M. Breen, said he’s unsure whether the trial will be by bench or jury.
“I’ve looked at all the discovery,” Breen said. “And I have yet to realize why [Divincenzo] was charged with any of this.”
Jennifer H. Gonzalez, Chief of the Sex Crimes Division for the Cook County Prosecutor’s Office, declined to comment on the case.
When asked what life’s been like since being charged, Divincenzo responded, “No comment.” When asked if he’s looking forward to his day in court he replied, without hesitation, “Of course I am.”
The Maine West soccer team held their first preseason game on Aug. 26. Some players told the Sun-Times that they’re still playing for their former coach.
“He was our coach,” said senior Jonathan Schmitz. “That’s who we’re playing for still.”
That same month, a fifth Maine West soccer player stepped forward to claim he was sexually assaulted. According to the victim’s attorney, the boy was sodomized and fondled by fellow teammates.