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UPDATED: Attorney for AJ Freund estate calls arrests of DCFS employees overdue

Two former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services employees have posted bond after their arrests Thursday in connection with a 2018 investigation involving Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund.

The two face allegations that they, “in a willful and wanton manner, knowingly caused or permitted [AJ] … to be placed in circumstances that endangered AJ’s life or health,” according to the indictments released Friday.

McHenry County Board member and veteran DCFS employee Carlos Acosta was released from the McHenry County Jail about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, records show. He could not be reached for comment Friday morning.

His arraignment is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 24.

Acosta’s former supervisor, Andrew Polovin, also posted bail and was released just before midnight, according to the McHenry County Jail’s website. His next court date is
9 a.m. Sept. 17.

Both men’s bonds previously were set at $20,000, meaning each would have been required to post $2,000 bail to secure his release.

McHenry County sheriff’s deputies arrested Acosta, 54, and Polovin, 48, Thursday afternoon on felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct. A grand jury approved the charges Thursday, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said.

Acosta had contact with AJ about four months before prosecutors say the boy’s parents beat him to death in their Crystal Lake home and falsely reported him missing. Polovin was Acosta’s supervisor at the time.

Official charging documents filed with the McHenry County Circuit Clerk’s Office on Friday morning allege that Polovin and Acosta “knowingly caused or permitted [AJ] … to be placed in circumstances that endangered AJ’s life or health …” They’re also accused of recklessly performing an act that “caused great bodily harm or permanent disability” to a child, according to the grand jury indictment.

A first offense of child endangerment in Illinois typically is charged as a misdemeanor, which often results in less than one year in jail. Those charges can be upgraded to felony offenses punishable by prison time if the alleged offense led to the death of a child, according to Illinois law. A conviction of a Class 3 felony child endangerment charge could result in a two- to five-year prison sentence.

Acosta had contact with AJ in December 2018 after a Crystal Lake police officer expressed concern about a large bruise on the boy’s hip.

Acosta and Polovin were placed on desk duty in April 2019 after AJ was reported missing on April 18. Both were fired from DCFS in December. Neither was directly involved with any investigation involving the family at the time of AJ’s death.

Kenneally declined to say what evidence was presented to the grand jury but said the joint investigation with police had been underway to some extent since AJ’s April 2019 death.

Reached by phone Thursday, Illinois DCFS spokesman Bill McCaffery declined to comment, noting that the case is an ongoing investigation being handled by another agency.

According to a May search warrant affidavit that also referenced Acosta, Polovin allowed protective custody of AJ to lapse before conducting a proper investigation into the large bruise on AJ’s hip in 2018. He also is accused of omitting a corresponding Crystal Lake police report, medical records and home safety checklist from AJ’s December 2018 file.

Acosta, who had been with the department for about 25 years before his firing, has said he followed DCFS procedures during the 2018 investigation. Polovin did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Northwest Herald throughout the past year.

Peter Flowers, an attorney with Meyers & Flowers who filed a lawsuit on behalf of the estate of AJ against Acosta and Polovin, in October, said the arrests are overdue.

“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,” Peters said in an email.

“We all heard the tapes and saw the pictures and videos,” he said. “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.”

The civil lawsuit still is ongoing, Flowers said, adding they will “work to hold them accountable for their reckless and apathetic disregard for AJ and other children within the DCFS system.”

• Northwest Herald correspondent Amanda Marrazzo contributed this report.

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