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updated: 7/31/2013 5:33 PM

Lake County Sheriff's deputy pleads not guilty to obstruction of justice

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  • Eric Francke

      Eric Francke

  • Aaron Thurmond

      Aaron Thurmond

  • Jeffrey Horton

      Jeffrey Horton

 
 

A Lake County sheriff's deputy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to destroying text messages that police say he made to a prostitute.

Eric Francke, 33, of the 43000 block of Forest Drive in Antioch, faces up to three years in prison if found guilty of obstructing justice and destroying evidence in order to thwart his own prosecution.

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Francke was also charged with solicitation of a sex act for paying a downstate woman to perform a sex act on him in April, authorities said.

He remains free from jail after posting 10 percent of his $10,000 bail. He is due back in court Sept. 26.

"Eric Francke is a highly respected deputy sheriff, and we look forward to clearing his name at trial," defense attorney Chris Lombardo said after Wednesday's arraignment hearing in Lake County court. "Hopefully, he will be able to put this behind him and get on with his life as soon as possible."

This is the latest turn in the case that involves Francke, the downstate woman, her boyfriend and his brother.

Aaron Thurmond, 23, and Jeffrey Horton, 27, were pulled over by Mundelein police about 11 p.m. on April 2 after they were spotted traveling through Mundelein with their headlights turned off.

The officer made a traffic stop, authorities said, and searched the vehicle, where the unidentified woman told officers she was being forced to work as a prostitute by Thurmond and Horton.

In addition, she told officers she was just paid $300 to have sex with an unidentified man in Wauconda and was heading to meet another man in Antioch. That Antioch man turned out to be Francke, authorities said.

Following an investigation, Thurmond and Horton were charged with trafficking in persons/involuntary servitude, promoting prostitution and money laundering. However, Horton pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of promoting prostitution on June 28 and remains free on probation.

Thurmond remains behind bars in lieu of $250,000 bail while awaiting trial. He is due back in court Aug. 7.

In addition, the unidentified woman remains held in Lake County jail after she ignored a June 27 court subpoena to testify against Thurmond and Horton. She has not been charged.

Francke has been a deputy with the sheriff's office since September 2008 and served in the criminal investigations division, according to the sheriff's office.

He remains on administrative leave without pay since charges were filed against him May 13.

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