By Jenny Amaral / The Daily Item
MARBLEHEAD – Law offices representing a former Marblehead High School soccer player have announced their intent to file a legal complaint against the town, school department, superintendent, athletic director, and high school principal for negligence in hiring soccer coach Steve Ingemi.
Attorneys Robert K. Rainer and Chris O’Connor claim that their client, former Marblehead resident and current resident of Somerville Jacob Rainer, and other varsity soccer players were subjected to hazing rituals under the direction of Ingemi during the 2004-2006 seasons.
The letter alleges that Ingemi would order each accepted player to the team to participate in the “right of passage” ritual known as “branding.” The player would be asked to stand inside the goal and face midfield. Ingemi would then kick a soccer ball at “great velocity” toward the player with intent to leave a mark or imprint of the ball across their chest. If the player moves or attempts to protect themselves from the ball, the process is repeated until the player can withstand the blow.
“This so-called drill willfully and recklessly endangered Jacob’s and other players’ physical and mental health,” the legal presentment reads. “Having allowed Ingemi to employ this dangerous form of hazing for so many years is unconscionable…Apparently those in authority in Marblehead never supervised Ingemi or trained him to understand his obligation as a coach and representative in the town of Marblehead not to organize this hazing ritual.”
Rainer and O’Connor plan to file a negligence claim in terms of hiring Ingemi and their lack of training and supervising, said O’Connor. They will also file a civil action against Ingemi for assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A complaint has yet to be filed in Essex Superior Court because public entities are involved. Legally, Rainer and O’Connor must give the accused parties six months to respond before bringing the issue into court.
“I just received (the letter),” said Marblehead Superintendent Paul Dulac Monday afternoon. “I’m looking into the manner now.”
Dulac said he was surprised by the news.
“This is quite unusual,” he said. “I’m not aware of any of the allegations here…with regard to the coach and the players.”
Dulac also questioned why the complaint was coming now, two years after Rainer graduated.
“I prefer to keep an open mind,” he said. “I don’t have anything to say right now.”
O’Connor said that the issue has been something Rainer has been thinking about for some time and just became comfortable coming forward with it.
“It’s an interesting case from my perspective,” he said. “You only hear about incidents of hazing when something awful happens…It’s an opportunity for us to get the issue out prior to something bad happening.”
O’Connor said that if found responsible, damages would be paid to the former student, as is the case for all civil complaints.
“But the bigger picture is (beyond) the scope of what the courts can award,” he said. “Awareness is the real goal here.”