Prosecutors can't use some statements from DCFS workers in AJ Freund case

  • Former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services supervisor Andrew Polovin, front, leaves court Wednesday after a hearing in Judge Robert Wilbrandt's courtroom in Woodstock. Polovin supervised DCFS caseworker Carlos Acosta, who was assigned to a 20189 DCFS investigation involving AJ Freund's family. Both men face reckless conduct and child endangerment charges in connection with that investigation.

    Former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services supervisor Andrew Polovin, front, leaves court Wednesday after a hearing in Judge Robert Wilbrandt's courtroom in Woodstock. Polovin supervised DCFS caseworker Carlos Acosta, who was assigned to a 20189 DCFS investigation involving AJ Freund's family. Both men face reckless conduct and child endangerment charges in connection with that investigation. Matthew Apgar/Shaw Media

 
 
Updated 1/27/2021 2:03 PM

Certain statements made by two former child welfare workers charged after the 2019 death of Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund cannot be used in the men's criminal prosecutions, according to the Illinois attorney general's office.

Former Department of Children and Family Services supervisor Andrew Polovin made a brief appearance Wednesday at the McHenry County courthouse, where his case was continued to March 10.

 

Polovin, 48, was arrested in September on reckless conduct and child endangerment charges in connection with a 2018 DCFS investigation involving AJ's family. Also charged was McHenry County Board member and veteran DCFS employee Carlos Acosta, who is due back in court Friday for a status hearing.

Both men were fired from DCFS in December 2019.

On Nov. 6, 2020, the McHenry County state's attorney's office served a subpoena to the Illinois DCFS Office of the Inspector General. In its request, prosecutors sought copies of reports, recorded interviews, written statements and notes tied to the Office of the Inspector General's investigation of Polovin, Acosta and fellow former DCFS employee Kathleen Gold.

Gold, who has since retired from the agency, oversaw a May 2018 investigation involving AJ's family. She ultimately determined that separate allegations of abuse against AJ's parents, in that case, were unfounded.

Before their interviews for the inspector general's investigation, the then-employees were informed their statements could not be used against them in criminal prosecution, Assistant Illinois Attorney General Michelle Camp said in a Jan. 7 court filing.

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"Because Acosta, Polovin and Gold could not decline to participate in the OIG's investigation, be interviewed, or refuse to answer questions, without facing possible discharge from their employment with the State of Illinois, or criminal charges, their statements were coerced and therefore not voluntary," Camp wrote.

McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Randi Freese agreed to receive redacted copies of the requested information, omitting any involuntary statements.

Those records once turned over to the McHenry County state's attorney's office, will not be available to the public.

Both Polovin and Acosta were involved in the December 2018, investigation of a large bruise on AJ's hip. That investigation came into question again after AJ's April 15, 2019, death.

Between Polovin's criminal case and a separate lawsuit, he is accused of allowing protective custody of AJ to lapse before conducting a proper investigation. He's also alleged to have omitted a corresponding Crystal Lake police report, medical records and home safety checklist from AJ's December 2018 file, court records show.

AJ's mother, JoAnn D. Cunningham, was sentenced in July to 35 years in prison for first-degree murder. His father, Andrew T. Freund Sr., is serving a 30-year sentence for aggravated battery of a child, involuntary manslaughter and concealment of a homicidal death.

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