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To My Recidivist Student | 2016 | Nothing's Gonna Change My World

06.07.16

Ghosts don't haunt us. That's not how it works. They're present among us because we won't let go of them.  

-Sue Grafton



The Convicted Dan Jurow

"One disturbed individual." That is how the judge in Dan Jurow's trial referred to him during sentencing. I know people who could have saved the judicial system some time and money by making that pronouncement years ago, before he had a chance to try to meet a twelve-year-old for sex.

I had, from time to time, checked in the prisoner databases to see if I could figure out what had become of him after his arrest. Since I wrote an entry about his arrest, people sent me messages asking me to convey their sympathy to his ex, Holly, or wanting to talk to me as if to quit their guilt by association, though I can do nothing for them beyond agreeing to a litany of his sins. I don't think he considered me his friend because I am not sure he is capable of having friends, as that suggests a level of emotional reciprocity he seems to lack. To Dan, there are only people he can exploit to get what he wants, which was doubly true for women. If he wasn't actively exploiting you, it was because it didn't benefit him in that moment, but I don't think it was because he had any positive regard or appreciation for you.

This week, Dan received a sentence of 121 months in prison and a lifetime of sex offender supervision for attempting to coerce and entice a minor, though it was fortunately two state police investigators executing a sting. Had it actually been a child, as the judge made clear, Dan would have raped her.

The judge, Mae D'Agostino, said, "I find the facts of this case very, very disturbing - and I see my share of disturbing facts in this courtroom. I think your actions would alarm even the most hardened individuals in the criminal justice system." I don't need to imagine what the judge learned from Dan that provoked this vehemence. Behind the mask of cultivated humanity that allowed him to move barely detected among people, he doesn't function like most people. He couldn't if he were so willing to discard foundational stigmas of our culture in seeking an "easy lay."

The facts as we know them are these: From December of 2014 until his arrest, he had been chatting up a fictional tween on Craigslist and in texts. On March 6 of 2015, he made plans to meet the girl in a McDonald's parking lot, where she was supposedly going to sneak away from her aunt. To this, Dan wrote, "OK, I know where you're talking about. That should be enough time to get to know each other and play a bit" but that "it's super-important we don't tell anybody about this. If anyone found out, it would be really bad." When police arrested him in Colonie, he had lubricant and condoms in his car.

Dan's defense during trial amounted to saying that he only agreed to meet this fictive girl because he was going through a tough period in his life, as though men turn to pedophilia out of frustration in other avenues in this life. His father died, his friends abandoned him after Holly booted him out for boasting of sleeping with and emotionally abusing a vulnerable woman, and - possible the worst of all from his perspective - his car broke down. This resulted in him taking out a Craigslist ad in December of 2014, stating that he was a "safe, hot man for virgins to practice with." This is sleazy in the extreme, but it is not yet criminal, though it was unsettling enough to be referenced at trial.

"When I posted a personal ad in search of an inexperienced woman, I imagined meeting a shy college student with whom I could share the curiosity, nervousness and playfulness typical of early dating experiences," Dan said at trial, summoning up a Penthouse Forum fantasy. "A 12-year-old girl was hardly the type of woman I was trying to meet."

This was hardly a satisfying defense of his actions, especially when it came out that, around the time of placing that ad, he corresponded with an actual fifteen-year-old girl whom he tried to badger into sending him nudes.

In 2013, meaning "while he was still dating and living with Holly," Dan put out ads looking for girls with braces, orthodontic implements not often found on the teeth of high school graduates. Worthy of cringing, one of the ads asked girls to "Flash that smile my way."

The judge was quick to point out that this ad came well before Dan's father died, so it was repulsive that he tried to blame this tragedy for his perversion. His deviance was not something he was driven to (and how could he with a broken car?), it is something inherent.

"Had you not been stopped," said the judge, "had this been an actual 12-year-old, that 12-year-old's life would have been ruined. I think you're a predator. I think you're dangerous and given the opportunity I think you would do it again."

Through the school year, I try to teach boys who have a core like Dan. They see only their pleasure and they literally cannot make themselves care about their victims. Most of my students who are like him have been physically, emotionally, and especially sexually abused, though I don't believe Dan has this as an exculpatory factor. I cannot forgive my students crimes against the world, nor is this expected of me. However, I can put these aside in hopes I can reach them enough to pull them from their brokenness. The oldest of them is still two decades Dan Jurow's junior and are still potentially in a place where they can be helped. Dan is entrenched because I doubt he believes he did anything wrong. I can't hope that a decade in prison will do anything to set him on a better path, though that is ostensibly the reason we have a correctional system. At the bare minimum, his continual supervision may prevent additional victims upon his release.

After Holly reads the article detailing his conviction, she asks if she can call me and, later, come over. She is not distraught for him. She feels this is karma, or at least the judicial system working right for once. She mourns, I think, for who she was before him and for all the time she wasted convincing herself that he was worth her attention. She worries that she is broken because he tried so hard to break her, because that is all someone as damaged as him can do. She wonders how she will explain this to future lovers and expresses skepticism that they will come soon. Amber and I assure her that she is wonderful: a talented, passionate, funny, and smart woman who got caught up in a bad decision he did everything to obscure until it no longer benefitted him to do so. Now that he is incarcerated, I want his effects on her to ebb until he is nothing but a story she tells with a laugh and a shake of her head, but that day is still in her future.

Soon in Xenology: Art.

last watched: Parks and Recreation
reading: The Watchmage of Old New York
listening: Regina Spektor

To My Recidivist Student | 2016 | Nothing's Gonna Change My World

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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