Former DCFS employee who handled AJ Freund investigation can see prosecution's evidence, judge rules

  • Former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and current McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta appears in McHenry County court Thursday in Woodstock. Acosta, who faces felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct in connection with AJ Freund's death, was granted permission to review documents and other records prosecutors have received in his case.

    Former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and current McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta appears in McHenry County court Thursday in Woodstock. Acosta, who faces felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct in connection with AJ Freund's death, was granted permission to review documents and other records prosecutors have received in his case. Matthew Apgar/pool/Shaw Media

  • Judge Robert Wilbrandt addresses former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and current McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta and his attorney Rebecca Lee during a hearing Thursday in Woodstock. Acosta was the caseworker assigned to the AJ Freund case and faces felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct in connection with the boy's death.

    Judge Robert Wilbrandt addresses former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and current McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta and his attorney Rebecca Lee during a hearing Thursday in Woodstock. Acosta was the caseworker assigned to the AJ Freund case and faces felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct in connection with the boy's death. Matthew Apgar/pool/Shaw Media

  • McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Randi Freese, right, talks with Judge Robert Wilbrandt, former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and current McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta, left, and his attorney Rebecca Lee, center, Thursday in Woodstock.

    McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Randi Freese, right, talks with Judge Robert Wilbrandt, former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and current McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta, left, and his attorney Rebecca Lee, center, Thursday in Woodstock. Matthew Apgar/pool/Shaw Media

  • Former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and current McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta at a hearing Thursday in Woodstock. Acosta was the caseworker assigned to the AJ Freund case and faces felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct in connection with the boy's death.

    Former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and current McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta at a hearing Thursday in Woodstock. Acosta was the caseworker assigned to the AJ Freund case and faces felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct in connection with the boy's death. Matthew Apgar/pool/Shaw Media

 
 
Updated 11/5/2020 12:08 PM

The former Illinois Department and Children and Family Services employee accused of putting 5-year-old AJ Freund at risk by allowing the boy to remain with his parents before he was killed will receive copies of the evidence prosecutors have collected so far, a judge ruled Thursday.

Former longtime DCFS employee and McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta, 54, appeared in court Thursday morning with his attorney Rebecca Lee in the case that stems from the boy's 2019 death at the hands of his parents.

 

Lee filed a request Oct. 26 seeking an order that would allow Acosta to personally review documents and other records the McHenry County state's attorney's office has received so far in connection with his case.

Lee's request was rooted in a recently amended Illinois Supreme Court Rule that previously barred defense attorneys from directly turning over any evidence to their client. Until recently, defendants could only review evidence in the presence of their attorney. As of Oct. 23, however, defendants are allowed to review copies of certain evidence unless prosecutors effectively argue otherwise.

"Mr. Acosta is a professional," Lee said in court. "There is no allegation of witness interference or intimidation."

Some of the documents Acosta wishes to review contain personal information about witnesses and would require careful redaction to more than 2,500 pages of evidence, McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Randi Freese said. Because the case has garnered significant public attention, Freese said she worried details that "can't be disclosed to the public at this time" might end up in the wrong hands.

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt ultimately ruled in Acosta's favor, with the expectation that Lee would redact personal identifiers of witnesses, excluding AJ's parents JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr.

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Both parties also are barred from sharing details of the evidence with outside sources, Wilbrandt ordered.

Acosta and his former supervisor, Andrew Polovin, 48, of Island Lake, were arrested in September on felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct.

The charges stem from a December 2018 investigation of a large bruise on AJ's hip. Although DCFS deemed the case unfounded in February 2019, the investigation came back into question after AJ's April 15, 2019, death at the hands of his parents. Both Cunningham and Freund are serving time in prison in connection AJ's death.

Acosta's case is next due in McHenry County court Jan. 27.

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