Former Illinois DCFS worker sentenced to 6 months in jail in AJ Freund case

Thursday, June 6, 2024
Former DCFS worker sentenced to jail in AJ Freund case
Former Illinois DCFS worker Carlos Acosta, convicted of mishandling abuse investigations of A.J. Freund, was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail.

WOODSTOCK, Ill. (WLS) -- A former Illinois DCFS worker will serve time in jail for charges related to the death of a 5-year-old boy, A.J. Freund.

Carlos Acosta, the former DCFS worker, was convicted of mishandling abuse investigations of Freund before his murder. He was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail.

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The murder of an innocent 5-year-old boy sickened the community in 2019 when Freund's body was discovered in a shallow grave. His mother and father were later convicted in connection with his death, but prosecutors also argued Acosta should have seen the dangers and removed him from the home.

"Mr. Acosta didn't even attempt to do his job that day, and a bewildering lack of willingness to comply with the basic strictures of DCFS," McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally said.

Freund suffered abuse and torture and was killed in at the hands of his parents at their Crystal Lake home.

On Thursday, a judge sentenced Acosta to six months in the McHenry County Jail, along with 30 months probation, 200 hours of community service and a contribution to the McHenry County Children's Advocacy Center of $1,000.

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Acosta was found guilty last October of two counts of child endangerment and not guilty of his third charge of reckless conduct. It is believed to be the first time in Illinois history a child welfare worker has been criminally convicted.

In court Thursday, the state called an investigator from the office of inspector general to the stand who questioned Acosta after AJ's death. She said Acosta at the time was wearing an earring with a middle finger on it and she also revealed his work cell phone password spelled out the word "Apathy."

Before receiving his sentence in court Thursday morning, a victim impact from A.J.'s grandmother was read by the prosecutor on behalf of family.

"Carlos Acosta was his child advocate," the statement said. "DCFS. Department of Children and Family Services. You had the opportunity to take action and do the right thing. You had the training. Why didn't you follow up with the doctor and police? Why didn't you go through the house? If you had, you would have found the lock was on the outside of A.J.'s bedroom door."

Acosta also took a few minutes to ask for leniency from the court, sharing how A.J.'s death has impacted him.

"I do accept responsibility for my role in this tragedy," Acosta said. "All I can ask for today is leniency from the court, the opportunity for redemption from my community and forgiveness from my God."

Before his sentencing Acosta apologized in a statement.

"I am not the lazy, uncaring, monster that Patrick has portrayed me to be," Acosta said. "I am a social worker."

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Acosta worked more than two decades for DCFS and also served on the McHenry County Board.

With two felony convictions, he could have gotten anywhere from probation up to ten years in prison. Judge George Strickland chose to send him to jail for six months.

"What A.J. deserved was a chance," judge George Strickland said. "A.J. deserved a happy life. What A.J. got was a shallow grave."

Sheriff's officers took Acosta immediately into custody, walking him out of out of the courtroom in handcuffs and not allowing him to kiss his wife on the way out. Some supporters say the state is making Acosta a scapegoat for the system.

"He has a huge heart," Acosta's friend Sam Salazar said. "Whatever happens, it's not for anyone to judge. The man up there will do."

Some community members, however, see the jail sentence as a victory.

"He was deliberately indifferent," said Tracy Kotzman with ROAR for AJ. "And I believe that's what the court proved the last four years."

Acosta was charged alongside Andrew Polovin, but a judge found Polovin not guilty on all of his charges.