ST. CHARLES – Though the words may be abhorrent, they are still just words on a page and those who received Anton Purkart’s anonymous letters disparaging Hispanics and a gay man – that’s all they are: Words on a page.
So said Matthew Haiduk, an attorney representing Geneva resident Purkart during a June 25 bench trial in branch court before Kane County Associate Judge Salvatore LoPiccolo Jr. on three counts of disorderly conduct in connection with letters Purkart admitted to sending in 2018. The charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to 30 days in jail and fines of up to $1,500 on each count.
“You don’t have a threat or a victim here,” Haiduk said. “The ‘act’ is mailing. That’s it. It’s putting a piece of mail in the mailbox. That is the ‘act.’ … They have not proven anything more than putting a piece of mail in a mailbox. … This case is over.”
But Assistant Kane County State’s Attorney Vanessa Coletti argued that when the recipients of Purkart’s letters – Brenda Gonzalez and Jill Johnson of Geneva and Joe Erbentraut of Batavia – testified to being alarmed, concerned and frightened, that constitutes disorderly conduct.
The Kane County Chronicle normally does not publish the names of crime victims, but in this case, each one gave permission to be identified.
Coletti said when Purkart took screen shots of the victims’ Facebook postings, printed them out, wrote derogatory comments on them and mailed them anonymously after tracking down each one’s home address, the totality of his actions constituted a breach of the peace.
Johnson, a Geneva resident, and Erbentraut of Batavia, both had posted sad faced emojis on Facebook regarding reports of ICE raids in the community last year.
Purkart’s message to Johnson: “Thank you ICE!! Need all spics gone!!! Feral subhumans.”
Erbentraut’s message from Purkart was to use a derogatory term for gay men, coupled with “Badger.” As a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Erbentraut thought the sender had researched his profile to make the message more personal.
The letter also called for both gay men and Hispanics to be deported, Erbentraut said.
Purkart’s message to Gonzalez was in response to her Facebook post that she liked food trucks contained multiple racial slurs and derogatory statements about Hispanics – referring to them as rodents to be exterminated.
Each recipient of Purkart’s letters testified about being unnerved, frightened and feeling targeted; not going out or allowing their children to go out; putting in additional security cameras; fear and anxiety causing sleepless nights.
Citing case law, Coletti said, “The main purpose of the offense of disorderly conduct is to guard against an invasion of the rights of others not to be molested or harassed either mentally or physically, without provocation.”
LoPiccolo said he would review a video of Purkart’s confession to Geneva police and give a verdict July 22.