Ex-Joliet cop’s attorney seeks to question former Kendall Co. prosecutor in misconduct case

Retired Joliet police sergeant Javier Esqueda sits in the courtroom for a pre-trial hearing at the Kendall County courthouse on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Yorkville. Esqueda is charged with official misconduct for accessing and leaking the police squad video of the arrest of Eric Lurry, 37, who died following his arrest on drug charges in January 2020.

A defense attorney has revealed the questions he plans to ask of a former prosecutor to determine if the Joliet Police Department retaliated against his client, who retired as a sergeant in 2022.

Attorney Jeff Tomczak revealed for the first time Tuesday the questions he plans to ask of former Kendall County Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Shlifka. He once handled the case against Tomczak’s client – retired Joliet police Sgt. Javier Esqueda – before resigning over a scandal involving an improper relationship with a female defendant.

Since 2020, Esqueda has been charged with felony official misconduct in a case that alleges he unlawfully accessed the squad video of the arrest of Eric Lurry Jr., 37, who died from a drug overdose after his arrest.

The video, published by CBS 2 Chicago, stirred controversy at Joliet City Hall and led to a police misconduct lawsuit by Lurry’s widow, Nicole Lurry.

Tomczak is seeking to put Shlifka on the witness stand as part of his motion to suppress all Joliet police evidence against Esqueda. The latter motion claims the police evidence was obtained in a retaliatory investigation that violated Esqueda’s rights as an alleged whistleblower.

A judge has not yet ruled on that motion. If the motion is granted, it could devastate the state case against Esqueda before it goes to trial. There’s also been no ruling on several other major pretrial motions.

While it appeared Tuesday was going to be the final pretrial hearing for Esqueda’s case, another pretrial hearing was scheduled for May 3.

Kendall County Judge Robert Pilmer set the new date to give Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis more time to respond to Tomczak’s motion to subpoena Shlifka as a witness in the case.

“It’s a truly unique motion. …It should be filed in the rarest of occurrences,” Tomczak said of his motion to subpoena Shlifka.

Defense attorney Jeff Tomczak for retired Joliet police sergeant Javier Esqueda prepares for a pre-trial hearing at the Kendall County courthouse on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Yorkville. Esqueda is charged with official misconduct for accessing and leaking the police squad video of the arrest of Eric Lurry, 37, who died following his arrest on drug charges in January 2020.

Tomczak told Pilmer he wanted to ask Shlifka if he was approached by Joliet police officers investigating Esqueda before or after the CBS 2 Chicago story ran in 2020 on the Lurry incident.

Tomczak said he wants to ask Shlifka whether the news segment was discussed by officers as well.

Another question for Tomczak was whether Shlifka was shown a general order from the Joliet Police Department that apparently allows supervisors to review and download videos. Tomczak said Esqueda was a supervisor as at the time of Lurry’s arrest.

“My question, your honor, would be, to Mr. Shlifka, was he ever handed this?” Tomczak said.

Tomczak said his “guess would be no.”

Tomczak said if prosecutors were never shown the general order by Joliet police officials, then they were “completely blindsided and blindfolded.”

Tomczak contends a “violation of departmental rules only” does not rise to official misconduct because there must be an underlying crime that is alleged. He said he wants to ask Shlifka what type of crime Joliet police officials requested he prosecute in the case against Esqueda.