Attorney in ex-Joliet cop’s felony case seeks to subpoena former Kendall prosecutor

Prosecuting attorney Mark Shlifka during the Javier Esqueda status hearing at the Kendall County Courthouse. Esqueda faces official misconduct charges for leaking video of Eric Lurry’s arrest. Lurry died from a drug overdose. Tuesday, June 14, 2022 in Yorkville.

A former prosecutor who handled the case against a retired Joliet police sergeant facing felony charges may be called as a witness to testify in a court hearing over allegations that he violated the Illinois Whistleblower Act.

Attorney Jeff Tomczak requested in a Feb. 14 motion to issue a subpoena to former Kendall County Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Shlifka, who resigned last year after he was sued by a female defendant he was in a relationship with.

Shlifka was the lead prosecutor on the case against retired Joliet police Sgt. Javier Esqueda, who’s been facing felony charges of official misconduct since 2020.

Esqueda is accused of unlawfully accessing a squad vehicle video of Eric Lurry, 37, who died from a fatal drug overdose after his arrest by Joliet police officers. The publication of the video on CBS 2 Chicago led to protests and a federal lawsuit from Lurry’s widow, Nicole Lurry.

Tomczak’s motion accused members of the Joliet Police Department and Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis’ office of violating Esqueda’s rights as an alleged whistleblower.

The motion claimed that Shlifka, as the prosecutor on the case, was “directly involved in the filing of the charges, which [Esqueda] believes was in furtherance [of a] violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act.”

Defense attorney Jeff Tomczak speaks with the judge during a status hearing for Javier Esqueda at the Kendall County Courthouse. Esqueda faces official misconduct charges for leaking video of Eric Lurry’s arrest. Lurry died from a drug overdose. Tuesday, June 14, 2022 in Yorkville.

A judge may decide March 7 on whether Tomczak can issue a subpoena to Shlifka to appear for an April 2 pretrial hearing. Both parties in the Esqueda case are expected to make their final case April 2 on all pretrial issues before the beginning of the trial.

Prosecutors have contested Esqueda’s whistleblower claim, and they have sought to keep the claim out of his trial. In a motion filed in 2022, Shlifka argued that a whistleblower under Illinois law is someone who exposes what they believe to be corruption to a government authority or agency.

“Because the defendant made no such disclosures to an entity described in the act, he does not fit within the definition of a ‘whistleblower,’” according to Shlifka’s motion.

In a court hearing in 2022, Shlifka told Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer that there was nothing under the legislation that gives Esqueda the right to suppress the police evidence against him.

“It doesn’t exist. So even if the court were to find he’s a whistleblower, the court wouldn’t have the authority to suppress evidence or grant his motion,” Shlifka said at the time.

Yet Tomczak requested that Pilmer hear his evidence first. He also asked the judge to consider issues he plans to raise regarding bad faith acts of law enforcement.

“There’s much case law out there relative to violation of [whistleblower] statute being grounds to suppress evidence,” Tomczak said.