Excitable Boy: The Dan Cilley Saga
Of the countless millions who have fallen for the old con that fame and fortune are abundant resources in Los Angeles, Dan Cilley is neither the most tragic nor the most interesting. He’s just the most recent.
On May 21, 2017, Cilley appeared before a jury of his peers in Department 52 of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles. He stood accused of violating California Penal Code Section 647.7: “annoying or molesting a child under 18.”
At 6’3”, Cilley’s imposing form was an unmistakable if unwanted fixture of the streets around the Courthouse. The busy city center had been a major boon for the Northern California transplant. Not only did it provide a host of low income housing opportunities, so too was it stocked with young women for him to approach. It was one such young woman that eventually facilitated Cilley’s downfall.
For nearly fifteen months he populated his YouTube account, personal blog and website with bizarre philosophical musings and videos of him “accosting women.” The unfortunate word choice was his short hand for any effort to pick up a consenting member of the opposite sex. It was not going well.
In a video from January 2, 2016, Cilley marched up to a girl and attempted to strike up a conversation using a collection of ham-fisted pick-up lines. When she walked away, he filmed her rear and muttered “Oh my God! Oh my God! Perfect lighting!” As she hurried down the sidewalk he shouted “I love you!! Happy New Year!”
In and of themselves, those actions weren’t illegal. However, Cilley later took to the comment thread on the video to describe his sexual interest in the girl. His subscribers and the countless online voyeurs who make sport of instigating his worst impulses weren’t the only ones to see the comments. The girl’s parents found them and forwarded the whole kit and caboodle to the FBI.
As it turned out, she was fifteen at the time Cilley approached her.
Had Cilley removed his video or the comments on them, he hypothetically could have avoided a conviction. Any capable public defender could have argued that there was no actual sexual intent in Cilley’s questions and that the later comments were farcical hyperbole.
Unfortunately for Cilley, he convinced himself that the trial was a referendum on a larger moral and philosophical lifestyle system he had spent years carefully cobbling together out of threadbare bits of motivational teachings.
What he lacked in a sense of self-preservation, Cilley made up for in gall. He sacked his public defender and opted to represent himself. He rejected a plea bargain which would have established his guilt while simultaneously saving him from registration as a sex offender. Finally, he took to the internet to defend himself.
In the comments for a self-authored blog post about his trial, Cilley laid out his principled stance.
“My argument will be that it is natural for any man, or the average man, to be attracted to underage girls…if those underage girls are physically developed enough so that their appearance would trigger a physiological/sexual arousal and interest in the man’s mind due to their body appearing fully, or near-fully developed.”
Crucial to this defense was Cilley’s belief that the “Standard American Diet,” or “SAD” as he calls it, causes unhealthy development in humans so that a female could be biologically of age while being chronologically under age.
Cilley naively banked on having the onus of reasonable doubt in his favor. Instead, the prosecution drew a net of video and textual evidence around him. The jury was not inclined to support his interpretation of the facts.
Instead, they delivered a unanimous guilty verdict.
As the bailiff cuffed Cilley, the jury adjourned to the elevator lobby where one middle-age white female juror shook her head and said loudly, “they should teach girls not to be so nice.”
The jury foreman was more direct. A clinical psychologist by trade, he found no part of Cilley’s argument to be convincing and offered simply, “he needs to register as a sex offender.”
Cilley seemed taken aback by the verdict. He had, after all, proclaimed that the trial was about “standing up for freedom of expression and masculine values.”
A vocal proponent of Donald Trump’s campaign for president and the accompanying vague mantra “Make America Great Again,” Cilley seemed to genuinely anticipate a positive outcome on the basis of his overwhelming masculinity. Finally, he was forced to confront the catastrophic lack of self-awareness that had brought him this far.
He arrived at this predictable nadir on the wings of twin impulses that have long flummoxed LA dreamers: blind faith and opportunism.
Cilley’s world view was then and remains today a hodge podge of ideas drawn from fringe living theories. He is a devoted believer in highly-touted fads like mindfulness and alternative nutrition. His motivational diatribes belie a deep-seated adherence to the notion that an individual can control their own destiny by controlling their thoughts and disciplining the body.
In one of the earliest posts on a blog he dedicated to The Secret and The Law of Attraction, Cilley declared “when you decide what you want, and focus on it, your subconscious will search for it. You will move forward. Think of what you want, and hold that fantasy in your mind.”
A gifted mynah bird, Cilley fashioned his public persona as if he were destined to influence the world in similar fashion to his Svengali idols Joel Fuhrman, Jack LaLane, Mystery, Rhonda Byrne, David Wygant and the host of other nickel philosophers that have contributed to his mindset.
Cilley saw an opportunity to build a following and eventually monetize ideas he’d mostly lifted from others. Armed with the slogan “Live the Best Life Possible,” he created a glut of motivational content for both YouTube and his proprietary website DanCilley.com.
In the weeks before his court case, Cilley posted a video entitled “Who Would Turn Down a 16-Year-Old?” In it, he declared that once the trial was won, he would be launching a subscription only site where his fans could pay to watch him “accost” women.
It wasn’t malicious or even extraordinary. It was just the optimistic, if misguided, expression of a desperate hope that in the Kim Kardashian era, even Dan Cilley could use the internet to acquire the things he’d always wanted.
His quest for influence and wealth has roots set squarely on one thing: a desire for meaningful sexual relationships with women.
In another candid moment from “Who Would Turn Down a 16 Year Old?,” Cilley admitted “the reason I came to Los Angeles is because I wanted to be around the best-looking women in the world.”
Through the scope of his online content, Cilley returns time and time again to the idea of sexual gratification. It is the prima facie of his consciousness. Everything Cilley did in the months before his trial was in service to a dream of being sexually fulfilled.
For Cilley, “living the best life possible,” includes a communal lifestyle built around organic agriculture and polygyny. He indicts the “Standard American Diet,” declaring wheat, dairy, refined sugar, salt, oil, caffeine, MSG, other additives, meat and chocolate as agents of hyper-stimulation.
It is his contention that a plant and fruit based diet has successfully cured him of a Leaky Gut syndrome that caused him to manifest “autism.” By removing over-stimulating agents and creating digestive equilibrium, Cilley and his harem would be free to pursue a unique brand of sexual harmony that included “ecstatic childbirth.”
It was his aspiration to find loving partners with which he could father children so that the women could experience the orgasmic possibilities of delivery. In his video “The Truth” from September 2016, he says, “I believe women are supposed to crave giving birth to a baby…dream of what it would feel like to carry a baby in their body.”
Cilley went as far as to begin advertising the creation of polygyny communities in either the Philippines or Las Vegas where he could turn his ideas into a reality. These utopian fantasies were easier to ponder aloud than to render in actuality.
Crucial to his inability to manifest these desires in the realm of actuality, the budding paterfamilias’ life was defined by a perpetual state of financial crisis.
On July 21, 2011, he took to his blog in a post titled “Where Everything is Free: Downtown, Los Angeles, CA.” He described Skid Row in terms of pure opportunity with a laundry list of freebies including “free housing, free money, free food money, free clothing, free doctor, free destiny, free food and free library.”
The reality was far less glamorous. As Cilley recorded it, he lived off of Mission hospitality until he met Kim. Herself a resident of local low income housing, Kim appears as both a godsend and a source of antagonism in Cilley’s life.
The complex multi-year relationship between the two gave Cilley access to shelter, running water and foods purchased with Kim’s disability check. Ultimately, Kim was the only person present to support Cilley on the day the jury came back in his trial.
The short and volatile Asian-American woman hissed at the jury members as they exited. When the Judge asked Cilley if he had any words, Kim took to her feet and shouted, “your freedom as a white American man, Dan!” before being removed from the courtroom.
Whatever praise for Kim Cilley may have had was seldom spoken. He often lambasted the free food as being highly toxic even as he appeared to be in the process of eating the item in question. Further, he often took up the issue of Kim’s mental health. Cilley claimed his demi-partner was schizophrenic.
No issue between the two was more contentious than their ever-diminishing sex life. In his auspiciously titled video of June 25, 2016, I Will Grab Women Soon, Cilley described a frustration that had finally come to boil.
“OK, it’s 4:16 p.m., June 24. I just kicked Kim out because she wouldn’t let me touch her. I was touching her. She was making me horny and I couldn’t touch her. I wanted to put my head down where her crotch is, but I couldn’t do it. She wouldn’t let me. I got angry. I said ‘get out.’ And then she hesitated. So I said ‘get out…let’s go.’ Then I pulled her up by her arms. Which I’ve done before. I’ve done the same thing before. Now it’s more serious. Now it’s quick. I’m healthy. I’m horny. I’m hornier.”
In that same video, CIlley identified the major stumbling block in his life. “It’s just going to take more money to get out of this place so that I can get better women,” he said.
Avenues for upward mobility were few and far between. Cilley’s initial stay in Los Angeles was marked by an intense difficulty in securing and maintaining gainful employment.
Still, the opportunity to create online content was always available. In his YouTube videos and blog posts, Cilley found a venue in which he truly excelled. Even if it was for all the wrong reasons.
Dan Cilley has a devoted following. Begun on December 7, 2015, KiwiFarms.net has hosted a robust discussion centered around the particulars of Cilley’s life. The now seventy page long thread has him filed away under “Lolcows,” which is a nice way of saying “people and groups whose eccentric or foolish behavior can be ‘milked’ for amusement and laughs.”
From this locus, Cilley’s every digital step was monitored while the fleshy bits of his backstory and ever-evolving crisis were dutifully followed, commented upon and sometimes instigated.
Cilley seemed to mistake the views, comments and words of encouragement from trolls as tacit approval of his conduct. The notoriety he achieved online was a signal opportunity to find the rare woman that would actually appreciate his ideas while honing in on his unique motivational creed with an audience of like-minded viewers.
Deluded or not, he faced inestimable personal rejection and persevered despite all signs to the contrary. A Downtown-centered flier campaign labeled him the “DTLA Predator.” Further insult to injury was added in August of 2016 when the local CBS affiliate featured Cilley in an expose that ended with this sage advice, “if you are approached by Cilley, police advise you to just walk away and not engage him.”
In late 2016, Cilley fell under the influence of an old friend from Petaluma High School, his alma mater.
Jeremy Tucker sometimes refers to himself online in the third person as “cock daddy.” He fancies himself a pick-up artist and a card shark. Tucker began lauding Cilley’s accosting videos. Eventually, he persuaded Cilley to join him in Las Vegas to practice picking up women on the strip.
The quick Greyhound jaunt into the desert was not a successful outlet for Cilley’s libido. Awkward, many-hour long videos bear testament to the discomfort in social situations that seems to hound Cilley wherever he goes.
Fresh from his Vegas repulse, Cilley began to hone in on a strategic plan of action for his content built around an ultimately disastrous online collaboration.
Andrew Fitzpatrick billed himself as a kindred spirit who could help Cilley develop his online presence. He became an aloof hype-man for the lumbering demi-celebrity, providing content in the form of crude illustrations that portrayed Cilley as if he were a sexual superman and generally promoting the bizarre well-spring of content pouring forth from Cilley’s hard drive.
Cilley eventually trusted Fitzpatrick to the point that he shared all of the passwords for his social media channels with the young stranger. A rift eventually developed as much of Cilley’s content began to disappear and other irregularities appeared in their place.
Much online conjecture has been devoted to Fitzpatrick’s ultimate intentions on the Kiwi Farms forums. Whether Fitzpatrick intended to harm Cilley while inciting him to further embarrassment or he just so happened to prove detrimental is uncertain.
What is certain is that a smorgasbord of Cilley’s most incriminating content (including a video of him lip-syncing to the Q Lazarus song “Goodbye Horses” a la Silence of the Lambs) suddenly appeared online again in the days and weeks before Cilley’s trial. Much of it was posted under the username Andrew Fitzpatrick.
Betrayed, burned out and at the helm of a bungled legal defense, Cilley emerged in court the morning after his conviction with a change of heart. He again requested the services of a public defender who began filing motions to contest his conviction on the grounds that he was incapable of self-representation.
The new development came to the chagrin of the prosecutor, Deputy LA City Attorney Lara Drino. Self-possessed, well-dressed, deliberate and eloquent, Drino was the perfect foil for Cilley, who attended court on the day of the verdict in a black t-shirt tucked into faded black Dickies.
Drino’s initial dissection of Cilley’s defense was a straight forward drubbing. She wisely maintained that Cilley was intellectually capable enough to manage his own legal affairs despite having no working knowledge of the criminal justice system.
Omid Haghighat, Cilley’s new public defender, had other ideas. In a prolonged series of court dates over the ensuring forty-seven days, the dapper attorney argued that Cilley was an unfit candidate for self-representation. Haghighat pointed to a recent precedent in the case of People V. Ruffin which drew new lines in establishing mental competency.
Haghighat had to determine legally what many had long suspected — that Dan Cilley suffers from a mental illness. Cilley was never formally diagnosed and thus entered the courtroom with a clean slate. However, in early July Haghighat arranged for a court administered seventy-five-minute mental health evaluation.
Cilley faced an odd conundrum. On one hand, he could accept the guilty verdict and the mandatory registration as a sex offender that would likely come with it. On the other, he could gamble on a new trial administered with a better strategy if only he could undermine his own standing by receiving a psychological diagnosis.
He ultimately opted for the diagnosis. The court psychologist determined that Cilley exhibited no disorganized thinking. Though he was “preoccupied” and “lacked insight in social judgement.” Officially, he was diagnosed with schizo-effective disorder that manifests itself in “grandiose delusions.” Further diagnoses include social anxiety and OCD.
The accompanying statement describing CIlley’s personality as “at best peculiar behavior, not operating at the same level of what we would call a normal person,” was a tough pill to swallow. More disquieting for Cilley was the Judge’s decision to deny the defense’s motion for a new trial.
As part of the sentencing, Cilley was given the opportunity to read a three-page handwritten letter he had prepared for the occasion. It was at once a stirring testament to his earnestness and a further instance of the incompatibility of his thoughts with social consensus.
“What I did caused stress and unhappiness in many people,” Cilley said. “I hope that no person would ever be treated as I treated the victim…now I will only engage in transactions that benefit all.”
He concluded, “This has been a valuable educational experience…I hope whenever people see or hear me, they desire to associate with me so that together we can live the best life possible.”
With that the court sentenced him to thirty-six months of probation, one hundred days in jail and a mandatory 290 registration as a sex offender. The judge instructed him further that filming minors would result in forfeiture of his probation.
He was released three days later on Monday, July 13 having spent a sufficient amount of time in between the criminal justice system and the gluten-heavy meal rotations at the L.A. County Jail.
Dan Cilley subsequently left Los Angeles and returned to his native Rohnert Park, California. The humble burb in Sonoma County was one of the first planned communities in the United States. Retro municipal signs still advertise it as “The Friendly City.”
His father ran for Congress there in 2012 as a staunch fiscal conservative. The elder Cilley is such a striking instance of the average CPA stereotype that QuickBooks used his photo and testimonial to accompany an ad for their product in the mid-90s.
This is the bucolic anonymity from which Cilley intended to restart his life with promises on his now private Facebook page that he would be getting a farm soon where there would be “parties every night.”
His hopes were sullied by local concerns. On August 11, his face was posted on fliers along with the details of his recent conviction. Even though his familiar face was hidden by a broad-brimmed gardener’s hat, he was asked to leave the Sonoma County Veg Fest the very next day. On August 13, the local ABC station profiled him in a less than flattering story built around the unease he inspired in his neighbors at the McDouall Apartments.
By August 15, he had posted new videos from Kim’s Apartment in Los Angeles. In his recent “I Am the Pinnacle of Pleasure” video, Cilley bemoans his fate, “All I want is to be passionate and have people love me, you know? Love what I’m talking about. Like Tony Robbins or Les Brown or all these other motivational speakers…Where can I help someone? When can I help someone?…It’s like it’s impossible for me to help people.”
Grim as his circumstances may be, Cilley is not alone. The California Megan’s Law Sex Offender Registry lists four hundred and twenty-eight offenders within two miles of the 90013 area code.
He had every opportunity to save himself from that fate. Instead, Cilley doubled down on a bad bet over and over again. No one but Dan knows what the exact moment was when he decided it was easier to go forward unchanged on the same path than go back.
In carving a sepulcher out of the things he could never have, Dan Cilley joined countless others in a city that doubles as a mass grave for those felled by lust. Los Angeles is haunted by the ghosts of lonely men.