Carlos J. Acosta, 57, of Woodstock, (left) and Andrew R. Polovin, 51, of Island Lake (right), are on trial this week facing charges for allegedly failing to do their jobs, leading to the death of AJ Freund (middle) in Crystal Lake in 2019. | Provided Photos

A trial began Monday for two former DCFS workers who were charged with mishandling the AJ Freund abuse investigations before the 5-year-old boy was killed in Crystal Lake.

Carlos J. Acosta, 57, of Woodstock, and Andrew R. Polovin, 51, of Island Lake, were both charged in September 2020 with two counts of endangering the life of a child causing death, a Class 3 felony, and one count of reckless conduct causing great bodily harm, a Class 4 felony.

Acosta and Polovin both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A grand jury indictment charged Acosta, a DCFS child protection specialist, and Polovin, a DCFS child protection supervisor, with “not acting in good faith” within their official capacities.

The indictment said the two, in a “willful or wanton manner,” knowingly caused or permitted the life or health of Andrew Freund Jr. to be endangered and that was the proximate cause of the boy’s death.

Freund Jr., who was five years old and resided in Crystal Lake, was murdered in 2019 by his mother, JoAnn Cunningham.

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Acosta and Polovin were released from the McHenry County Jail after posting 10% of their $20,000 bonds in September 2020.

Crystal Lake police in December 2018 contacted DCFS, which opened an investigation into abuse allegations against AJ Freund’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, after officers found AJ to have suspicious bruising.

File Photo | Andrew Freund (undated photo)

Polovin was the supervisor of Acosta, who was assigned to the case.

They closed the case after attributing the bruising to the family dog, despite AJ telling an emergency room doctor, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”

A federal lawsuit filed said that Acosta, who is also a current McHenry County board member, and Polovin conducted “sham investigations” and falsified reports despite clear signs that AJ was being abused before his death.

The lawsuit alleged Acosta falsified the Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol and indicated that AJ’s bruise was caused by a dog, despite obvious inconsistencies with the story.

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“Defendants Acosta and Polovin, ignoring DCFS Procedures and the Prime Directive of ANCRA, returned AJ right back into the claws of his abusers, who were further emboldened by the Defendants’ indifference to gear up their infliction of horrific physical and mental abuse and torture, culminating in AJ’s murder on April 15, 2019,” Attorney Peter J. Flowers said in the lawsuit.

Polovin and Acosta were later fired by DCFS.

AJ’s parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, were both charged with first-degree murder on April 24, 2019, after an almost week-long search for the child.

Andrew Freund Sr. appears for a status hearing in front of McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt on September 16, 2020, at the McHenry County Courthouse in Woodstock. | Photo: Stacey Wescott/pool/Chicago Tribune

Police found the young boy’s body buried in a shallow grave in a field near Woodstock.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving 35 years in the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois.

Records show she is expected to be released on April 24, 2054. She entered the prison with over a year of credit for time served in the McHenry County jail awaiting trial.

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Andrew Freund Sr. pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal to aggravated battery to a child, a Class X felony, involuntary manslaughter, a Class 3 felony, and concealing a homicidal death, a Class 3 felony. He is serving 30 years in prison.

Acosta and Polovin’s trial began Monday morning and is being overseen by Lake County Judge George Strickland, who has been presiding after being appointed following an Illinois Supreme Court order saying that 22nd Judicial Circuit Court judges should not preside over the two cases.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally gave an opening statement followed by attorneys for Acosta and Polovin giving their opening statements.

A Crystal Lake police officer was the first witness called in the trial to testify.

She interacted with the Freund family before the murder and reported signs of abuse to DCFS.

The trial is expected to last the entire week.