Joliet Police Officer Javier "Butch" Esqueda, of Plainfield, could face prison time if convicted of leaking police car footage reportedly showing police brutality.
The 51-year-old Esqueda is alleged of leaking footage taken inside of a Joliet Police squad car of officers sticking a baton in the mouth of Eric Lurry, a black man, who was said to be involved in a drug investigation in January of 2019. Lurry later died, but authorities have said his death was caused by drugs, not his treatment by police. The video also shows police appearing to hold Lurry's neck and slapping him.
The case is being tried in Kendall County because that is where Esqueda is accused of accessing the video that was eventually leaked to the media.
Esqueda was formally charged in Kendall County Court Wednesday where he pleaded not guilty to four counts of official misconduct. Judge Robert Pilmer is presiding over the case. He told Esqueda that he could face two to five years in jail or probation if convicted.
After the hearing, Esqueda's attorney Jeff Tomczak questioned the motives of the Kendall County State's Attorney's Office. Tomczak says the case is the poster child for the so-called police code of silence. Tomczak called for the Kendall County State's Attorney's Office to say what message it is sending to law enforcement with the charges against Esqueda.
Tomczak previously told WSPY news that Esqueda is a whistleblower trying to expose police brutality and that he did the right thing by releasing the video months after Lurry's death.
First Assistant State's Attorney Mark Shlifka had no comment. He said that Illinois Supreme Court rules and ethical obligations prevent him from commenting on the case.
The Joliet Police Department says that Esqueda broke the law and possibly compromised an investigation by releasing the footage. The Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force is investigating Lurry's death.
Esqueda turned himself in to Kendall County authorities in October and posted bond to be released shortly after. The court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case next month.