Attorney for AJ Freund's Estate Says Charges Against Social Workers Are 'Long Overdue'
AJ Freund died in April 2019 after he had allegedly been abused by his parents for years, including padlocking him in his bedroom and beating him.
An attorney for the estate of AJ Freund, a 5-year-old boy who was later killed by his parents, said charges are long overdue for the pair of social workers accused of failing to act after injuries were found on the child.
The social workers, Carlos Acosta and his former supervisor, Andrew Polovin, 48, have been charged with two felony counts of endangering the life of a child and one felony count of reckless conduct.
AJ died in April 2019 after allegedly enduring years of abuse from his parents, who would allegedly padlock him in his bedroom and beat him. He died after being struck with a shower head and locked in his room alone.
Peter Flowers, an attorney with Meyers & Flowers, filed a lawsuit against Acosta and Polovin in October.
“These arrests have been a long time coming and serve to reinforce our claims about the need to hold not only these individuals accountable but also highlight the need for changes in the agency itself,” Flowers told Northwest Herald.
“We all heard the tapes and saw the pictures and videos,” Flowers continued. “We know AJ’s death was entirely preventable. These two DCFS employees who were supposed to help him ignored every red flag, even ignoring reports of abuse from the local police, medical professionals, and AJ’s neighbors.”
Four months before he was killed, Acosta and Polovin were both involved in an investigation into a large bruise on AJ’s hip. Acosta claims they followed protocol.
“I don't deny the fact that I was there four months before and that's something that I'm going to have to live with forever,” Acosta told Shaw Media Illinois in an interview late last year. “And again, should have, could have, would have.”
The Northwest Herald reported that Polovin and Acosta allegedly allowed protective custody of AJ to lapse before investigating properly and then didn’t include a police report, medical records and a safety checklist in AJ’s file in Dec. 2018. They both also reportedly deemed the allegations of abuse "unfounded" two weeks after the incident. Neither man was involved with the family at the time of AJ's death.
Polovin’s actions “willful and wanton, given the nature of the injury” that AJ suffered, McHenry County State's Attorney Investigator Robert Diviacchi wrote in a search warrant affidavit filed May 7 seeking his personnel file, training transcripts and employee evaluations.
Despite his injury, AJ was returned to his parents.
On April 15, 2019, Cunningham woke Freund at 3 a.m. to tell him AJ was not breathing and once they realized he was dead, they placed his body in a tote in the basement and buried him days later, according to allegations contained in court records.
Freund reported AJ missing to police four days late. Police found AJ’s remains six days later buried miles from his home in Woodstock. AJ had suffered fatal head injuries and had numerous bruises and cuts on his body.
His mother, JoAnn Cunningham, 37, pleaded guilty to murder last year and was sentenced to 35 years in prison in July. His father, Drew Freund, 61, was also charged with murder. But McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Randi Freese and Freund's appointed attorney, Henry Sugden, reportedly don't expect the case to go to trial.
"I believe we will be able to resolve this on Sept. 16," Freese told McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt in August, the Daily Herald reported. If they do go to trial, it is expected to begin Dec. 9 and could last about three days.
Acosta and Polovin were initially placed on administrative duty once AJ was killed, but in December they were fired by the Department of Children and Family Services.
Both social workers have had their bail set at $20,000 and both have since bonded out.
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