Defense rests without calling witnesses in former DCFS workers' trial

Attorneys for two former Department of Children and Family Services workers charged in connection with the death of AJ Freund rested their case Friday without calling their clients, or anyone else, to testify.

With no defense given, the case against the two former child welfare agency employees was recessed until next month, when closing arguments are expected.

The surprisingly quick wrap-up of this phase of the trial happened after four days of testimony from prosecution witnesses that DCFS failed to intervene and remove the 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy from his household despite evidence that he was being abused.

AJ died on April 15, 2019, after his mother, Joann Cunningham, beat him and made him stand in a cold shower.

Cunningham eventually pleaded guilty to killing AJ, but only after he was reported missing, prompting a wide search for the boy. His father, Andrew Freund, Sr., is imprisoned for concealing the death and other crimes.

The case took an unusual turn in 2020, when the DCFS child protection specialist assigned to AJ's case, Carlos Acosta, 57, of Woodstock, and his former supervisor, Andrew Polovin, 51, of Island Lake were charged.

Acosta and Polovin were each charged with two counts of endangering the life of a child and health of a minor and one count of reckless conduct.

They chose to have the outcome of their case decided by a judge rather than a jury, and a judge was brought in from Lake County to oversee the trial.

On Thursday, those present in the McHenry County courtroom had heard disturbing recordings Cunningham made on her cellphone berating the boy in the months before she killed him.

Cunningham, 40, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and AJ's father, Andrew Freund Sr., 64, pleaded guilty to aggravated battery of a child, involuntary manslaughter and concealment of a homicidal death. They are serving 35 and 30 years in prison, respectively.

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Former Department of Children and Family Services caseworker Carlos Acosta listens in court Friday. Gregory Shaver/Shaw Local News Network
Former Department of Children and Family Services supervisor Andrew Polovin sits in a Woodstock courtroom Friday during the fifth day of this trial. Gregory Shaver/Shaw Local News Network
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