Maine West Coach Cleared in Hazing Scandal

Judge Jeffrey Warnick found 37-year-old Michael Divincenzo not guilty of misdemeanor battery, hazing and failing to report abuse

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    Michael Divincenzo (left) stands with attorneys Todd Pugh and Tom Breen.

    A circuit court judge on Wednesday dismissed a case against a former high school soccer coach charged after allegations of hazing.

    Judge Jeffrey Warnick found 37-year-old Michael Divincenzo not guilty of misdemeanor battery,  hazing and failing to report abuse. Had he been found guilty, the former Maine West High School coach faced up to a year in prison.

    "I'm just very grateful for my lawyers and my family and my friends. It's been very hard, and I just really appreciate that I have such great people behind me," he said, breaking down into tears while flanked by his attorneys.

    Maine West Coach Dismissed in Hazing Scandal

    [CHI] Maine West Coach Dismissed in Hazing Scandal
    For roughly three hours Wednesday evening, district officials heard from former players and parents who defended Michael DiVinsenzo. Lauren Jiggetts reports.

    Prosecutors alleged Divincenzo was aware that some members of the school's 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 culture of hazing and allege that after one incident he told a player "welcome to the team."

    Divincenzo's attorneys maintained their client was unaware of the alleged hazing because it was students preying on students in these incidents. He turned down a plea deal offered by prosecutors last month.

    Fifth Student Alleges Hazing at Maine West

    [CHI] Fifth Student Alleges Hazing at Maine West
    In a lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County, the boy, now 16, claims the attack happened behind the bleachers on the soccer team's practice field in September of last year. Rob Stafford reports.

    Warnick put the trial on hold last month so attorneys from both sides could file briefs and so he could consider a defense motion to find Divincenzo not guilty.

    When the trial resumed earlier Wednesday, Warnick quickly said the former coach was not guilty of failing to report abuse. Divincenzo's defense attorneys, having previously said they were not ready to mount a defense, rested their case.

    The not guilty ruling on the remaining two charges came shortly thereafter.

    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.