Hazing News

Chicago hazing update (12/23). Trial of ex-Maine West high school coach takes on legal twists and turns

Here is the story link

Update 12:23  My friend and colleague David Westol succinctly explains what is going on procedurally below with the trial’s delay until January. Thank you: A motion for a DV (Directed Verdict) is standard in criminal cases, just as it is in civil cases, although the burden of proof is different.  The concept is simple: it gives the defense in a criminal case the opportunity to say, “Your honor, the evidence submitted by the prosecution, taken in the most favorable light to the (state), does not set forth sufficient evidence to justify a guilty verdict.  Therefore, the trial must end at this point since the prosecution has put forth all of its evidence”

Moderator:  If there is one thing, adults say over and over in high school and college hazing incidents is that “boys will be boys.” This time the attorney for embattled Maine West Coach used that argument to convince a judge to grant a stay until January

Sun-Times excerpt below.

Then, before even putting on a defense, lawyer Todd Pugh asked Cook County Judge Jeffrey L. Warnick to find Divincenzo not guilty of sanctioning a hazing culture among his players in the Northwest suburbs.

“These were definitely boys,” said Pugh, who appealed to Warnick’s personal knowledge that boys sometimes do “gross, disgusting” things.

And in an unusual move, the judge chose to put Divincenzo’s trial on hold until Jan. 8 to consider the request made after prosecutors rested their case.

Warnick’s decision could rest upon whether Divincenzo was required under Illinois’ Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act to report the alleged hazing to the state’s Department of Children and Family Services.

If he rules against Divincenzo, 37, of Elk Grove Village, the coach would still have an opportunity to put on a defense. He is charged with misdemeanor battery, hazing and failure to report abuse.

Several current and former Maine West soccer players have now testified about the apparent cycle of hazing on the varsity team. But Divincenzo’s lawyers say he knew nothing about it.

Generally, the “initiations” involved tackling a player, giving him a wedgie and sodomizing him with fingers or sticks.

One player said he was only poked in the “butt cheek,” though, and another testified Thursday his teammates simply punched him repeatedly.

Many characterized it as simple horseplay, but one boy said he limped afterward and another said he later felt pain while bending over.

Assistant State’s Attorney Margaret Ogarek said Divincenzo was responsible for the boys’ behavior because he created an environment that allowed the alleged hazing to go on for years.

She also said it’s “quite frankly, unbelievable” that Divincenzo didn’t know what was happening in his soccer program. One boy said Divincenzo said, “Welcome to the team,” after one less violent incident.

Others said he ordered the varsity team to apologize and do 100 push-ups after a more serious Sept. 26, 2012, incident that prompted a criminal investigation into the hazing. Maine West administrators said they learned what happened two days later, from the family of a freshman player.

No one at the school told DCFS until Oct. 2, 2012, lawyers said Thursday.

Finally, Ogarek underscored the testimony of former freshman players who said Divincenzo earlier told them he’d have the varsity team “take their thumbs and stick it up our butt” if they performed poorly in a drill.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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