A gay man who resides in Batavia, Illinois, was among several residents of the western suburbs who received hate mail from a local resident taking umbrage with statements they'd posted or supported on social media.
Anton Purkart of Geneva faces four counts of misdemeanor disturbing the peace in court on Aug. 7.
Many whom Purkart allegedly harassed had only minimally engaged in the online conversations in question. The gay man and a female Geneva resident, both of whom wished to remain anonymous, had only posted a "sad" emoji on a post about immigration issues in late May. In both cases, Purkart included a printout of the discussion and circled their name on a list of contributors.
Even more upsetting to them, however, were crude and bigoted notes he scrawled on the printout. The gay man's message included a homophobic slur and even insulted where he went to school.
"I couldn't believe that he took the time to look me up on Facebook, print it out, look up my address and mail it," said the man.
"It caught us all off guard," said the woman. "It was so unexpected to get a letter like that in the mail."
Geneva resident Brenda Gonzalez received hate mail allegedly from Purkart May 11 after she posted a one-sentence message of support for local food trucks.
"There was absolutely nothing controversial about the food trucks," Gonzalez recalled.
About a week later, she received a printout with a typewritten note that contained numerous slurs against Latinx persons.
"We took it to the police department that evening and filed a report and, then ... we all kind of started to find each other," she said, adding she was almost relieved to discover other people had received similar correspondence.
Gonzalez was saddened to see that Purkart lived just down the street.
"I came to find out he lives a block away from me, goes to my church and has actually had a beer on my front patio," she added. "He knew my neighbors and was sitting on the patio having a beer with us one night."
All three of the recipients felt that Purkart was getting off light with the pending charges. The gay men questioned why he was not being charged with a hate crime.
"He'll probably end up with community service and a fine, for the amount of emotional turmoil he put us all through," Gonzalez said. "...It seems the punishment doesn't fit the crime."