New judge to hear case against AJ Freund's caseworkers
An out-of-county judge will be brought in to the McHenry County courthouse to preside over the cases of two caseworkers charged criminally in the death of a 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy who was killed by his parents in 2019.
Judge James Cowlin, who is serving as chief of the 22nd Judicial Circuit until his term ends Nov. 30, has replaced the now-retired Judge Robert Wilbrandt. On Dec. 1, Michael J. Chmiel will take over as the new chief judge.
Wilbrandt had been overseeing all matters related to the death of AJ Freund, including the criminal cases of his parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund.
Wilbrandt also had been presiding over the cases of Carlos Acosta and Andrew Polovin, employees with the Department of Children and Family Services. Acosta was assigned as AJ's caseworker, and Polovin was Acosta's supervisor.
In a rare move, each has been charged criminally in the child's death.
On Friday, Cowlin told attorneys for Acosta and Polovin that he had a conflict presiding over the cases because, in his role as chief judge, he goes before the McHenry County Board on budget issues and other matters, and Acosta is a county board member.
Acosta, 56, of Woodstock, and Polovin, 49, of Island Lake, are each charged with two counts of endangering the life of a child and health of a minor, Class 3 felonies, and one count of reckless conduct, a Class 4 felony, related to their handling of AJ's case.
If convicted on the most serious charges of child endangerment, a Class 3 felony, they could face between five and 10 years in prison.
Before Wilbrandt, Cunningham pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Freund also pleaded guilty before Wilbrandt, and he is serving a 30-year prison sentence.
Acosta's and Polovin's next court date is Aug. 30. Neither man was present at court Friday.