A former Maine West High School soccer coach criminally charged after brutal hazing allegations surfaced at the school turned down a plea deal on Tuesday, forcing the case to move to trial.
Michael Divincenzo, 37, of Elk Grove Village, was offered two years of supervision in exchange for a guilty plea to charges of misdemeanor battery, hazing and failure to report abuse. The defendant also waived his right to a jury trial, meaning a judge alone will decide Divincenzo's fate.
Divincenzo earlier in the morning walked into the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie wearing a dark suit and a knit cap. He declined to comment to gathered reporters.
Prosecutors allege Divincenzo was aware that some members of the soccer team he coached were being attacked by other students who would hold them down and, in some cases, sodomize them through their underwear. They said he perpetuated a culter of hazing and abuse and allege that after one incident he told a player "welcome to the team."
The first witness on the stand was a sophomore soccer player who testified that he didn't see any of the alleged incidents but heard about them and told his parents. The allegations all revolve around similar reported incidents in June, August and September 2012. A fifth student in August filed a lawsuit alleging he was sexually assaulted by his former teammates.
Divincenzo has denied guilt "of any kind," and his defense team on Tuesday said any alleged incidents may have been teenagers behaving badly.
His lawyer, Thomas Breen, has previously questioned whether the hazing even took place, let alone whether Divincenzo knew about it.
"I’ve yet to see why or how he got charged," Breen said in October.
Officials with for Maine Township High School District 207 fired Divincenzo a year ago, after the hazing allegations first surfaced. Freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez was also fired and is currently fighting to keep his job.