A retired DCFS administrator testified the entire second day of the trial of two DCFS workers accused of mishandling the AJ Freund investigations and said that the former workers failed to do their jobs.
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.
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.
A joint trial for Acosta and Polovin, who both pleaded not guilty to their charges, began Monday morning.
The second day of the trial was delayed Tuesday morning following an issue with evidence exhibits.
Attorneys for both sides worked through the morning to resolve the issue.
Carole Ruzicka, a retired DCFS administrator who is an expert witness called by prosecutors, testified after the trial resumed following a lengthy recess.
McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally direct-examed Ruzicka for over two hours.
Ruzicka said during her testimony that Acosta failed to perform inquiries regarding parts of his report after he was called to investigate a large bruise found on AJ Freund in December 2018.
Ruzicka said Acosta incorrectly checked “no” on several parts of his report where he should have checked “yes.”
One of the parts included Acosta failing to document that there had been prior or current police involvement for domestic violence in the Freund family, Ruzicka said.
Ruzicka testified that Acosta failed to ask numerous questions and investigate further.
Kenneally presented a text message exchange between Acosta and Polovin.
Acosta sent a photo of the bruise to his supervisor and said, “Kid said big dog put his paw on me. I take that to mean a scratch.”
Polovin responded and said, “That looks nasty, but if that’s what the kid says.” The pair did not seek extended protective custody and instead let AJ go home from the hospital with his father.
“When your job is to protect children and you don’t do that job because you are lazy and you are heartless, you are necessarily and by definition endangering children,” Kenneally said during opening statements Monday.
Matthew McQuaid, Polovin’s attorney, said during his opening statement that there will be “lots of speculation” presented during the trial.
Crystal Lake Police Officer Kimberley Shipbaugh on Monday testified about responding to the Freund house at 94 Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake in December 2018 before AJ’s death.
She broke down crying talking about the signs of abuse she saw on the young boy.
Shipbaugh also described the uninhabitable living conditions in the home, which prompted her to notify the building and zone department for an inspection and contact DCFS.
Dr. JoEllen Channon, who works at Northwestern Medicine Hospital Woodstock, testified about her interactions with the family and DCFS during the emergency room visit after police noticed the large bruise on AJ.
Channon said she asked the boy if he had been hit or spanked before, to which he replied that he had.
“I had asked with what, and he said a belt, I asked him if that is what made the mark, and he said yes,” Channon said.
AJ then told the doctor, “Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me,” Channon testified.
The doctor said she was 100% certain that protective custody could be maintained over AJ because of the evidence indicating his mother, JoAnn Cunningham, was the abuser.
DCFS closed the case after attributing the bruising to the family dog, despite AJ’s statement to the doctor.
Polovin and Acosta were later fired by DCFS. Their trial is expected to last the entire week.
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.
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.
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.