GENEVA – A Geneva man charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct for sending derogatory letters targeting women, Hispanics and a gay man was found not guilty July 22 on all three counts.
Kane County Associate Judge Salvatore LoPiccolo Jr. said he did not condone Anton Purkart’s actions and he found “the contents of these letters to be vulgar and offensive,” but the state did not meet its burden of proof that the letters’ content were fighting words.
“The words are protected speech,” LoPiccolo said. “I am not condoning his actions.”
Purkart, 51, had appeared before LoPiccolo during a June 25 bench trial at Kane County Branch Court, where three recipients of his anonymous letters testified as to how frightened and threatened they felt.
After the verdict, Purkart’s attorney, Matthew Haiduk, said his client was looking forward to apologizing to the people he sent the letters to.
In response to a reporter’s question as to why he sent the letters, Purkart smiled, saluted, turned and walked away.
The recipients of Purkart’s letters agreed to be identified.
Brenda Gonzalez of Geneva said she was disappointed in the verdict.
“But we knew going in that this was a First Amendment case and those are hard to argue,” Gonzalez said. “I respect the judge’s decision and I appreciate everything the State’s Attorney’s Office did in terms of taking the time and treating this seriously.”
Geneva resident Jill Johnson and Batavia resident Joe Erbentraut also said they were disappointed in the verdict.
“This was a red-flag opportunity to get someone help,” Johnson said of Purkart. “I know he wants to apologize ... but I hope it’s an apology because he realizes his wrongdoing and not just being sorry he got caught.”
As to Purkart’s promised apology, Erbentraut said, “I’m not particularly interested at this point.”
“I understand we live in a country where certain speech is protected, but it was interpreted to make us feel unsafe in our home,” Erbentraut said.