Former DCFS worker handling AJ Freund case sentenced to 6 months in jail

A former investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services who was found guilty of child endangerment in the death of 5-year-old AJ Freund was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail.

Judge George D. Strickland sentenced Carlos Acosta to half a year in the McHenry County jail and 30 months of probation. Acosta must also make a $1,000 contribution to the McHenry County Children's Advocacy Center and perform 200 hours of public service.

Strickland ruled Acosta failed to protect AJ Freund after suspicious bruises were found on his body. AJ Freund was killed by his parents in Crystal Lake in 2019.

Acosta's supervisor, Andrew Polovin, was also charged but acquitted. Polovin was not found guilty because the judge could not say how much he knew about AJ's living situation or when he knew it.

"At the end of the day, AJ suffered. Society ignored him. DCFS ignored him. Mr. Polovin ignored him and worst of all, Mr. Acosta ignored him," Strickland said.

The two former employees went on trial Sept. 11, 2023, after they were each charged with endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct.

Carlos Acosta (left) and AJ Freund

Acosta and Polovin were the caseworkers assigned to AJ, and were fired months after his death in 2019.

AJ was found in a shallow grave near Woodstock, and a subsequent investigation found that he had been subjected to a pattern of abuse allegedly by his parents, culminating in his death while padlocked inside his bedroom with swelling in his brain.

The day A.J. died, documents say the child was punished for urinating in his underwear. He was then put in a cold shower for about 20 minutes, before being sent to bed "cold wet and naked."

JoAnn Cunningham, Freund’s mother, eventually pleaded guilty to his murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. His dad, Andrew Freund Sr., pleaded guilty to felony charges of aggravated battery of a child, involuntary manslaughter and concealment of a homicidal death, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors had accused both Acosta and Polovin of not doing their job and not caring.