In a brief arraignment hearing Thursday at the McHenry County courthouse, a former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services supervisor pleaded not guilty to felony criminal charges connected to the death of 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund.
Through his lawyer Matthew McQuaid, Andrew Polovin, 48, pleaded not guilty to the charges of child endangerment to the health or life of a child causing death; causing circumstances endangering the health or life of a child causing death; and reckless conduct.
If convicted, he faces between 2 and 5 years in prison. The charges also are punishable by probation.
McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt said Polovin could also be required to pay up to a $25,000 fine and serve mandatory supervised release for up to one year.
A status date was set for 9 a.m. Oct. 29, and the courtroom cleared out for a recess.
Freund was the subject of many police and child welfare checks over the span of his short life. He was beaten to death in April 2019, and his remains later were found buried in a shallow grave.
His mother, JoAnn Cunningham, 37, has since pleaded guilty and is serving a 35-year prison term. His father, Andrew Freund, 61, remains in custody on $5 million bond and is set to appear in court Friday to possibly accept a plea deal.
Many lawyers have said that it is a rare move by prosecutors, to criminally charge Polovin and former DCFS caseworker Carlos Acosta, 54, who had been assigned to AJ’s case.
Acosta, who also sits on the McHenry County Board, is set to appear for his arraignment next week.
Outside the courtroom McQuaid said Polovin had dedicated his life’s work to protecting and caring for children and he looks forward to seeing him exonerated. He said he is searching for a similar case in which a public servant has faced criminal charges.
McQuaid said he is considering filing a motion for a change of venue should the case go to trial.
“These charges … do not reflect the kind of person he is, his character,” McQuaid said. “He has been a public servant his entire work life. He’s worked in child protection. Obviously these charges do not reflect that.”
He said Polovin had known “for a while” that the charges could be coming and he was aware of the grand jury proceedings. However, Polovin was never contacted or interviewed during the investigation, McQuaid said.
“I can’t say I’m surprised but I’m disappointed,” McQuaid said. “If anything his career is destroyed, his name is mud and his character has been assassinated.”