DEA Pays College Student $4.1 Million after Forgetting He Was in Lockup for a Week

Saturday, August 03, 2013
Daniel Chong

It is important to know the cost of things. In the case of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the cost of arresting a 24-year-old college student at a party, locking him in a windowless holding cell without food or water and forgetting about him for five days is apparently $4.1 million.


Lawyers for Daniel Chong announced on Tuesday that they had reached a settlement on behalf of the University of California, San Diego student who was arrested on April 21, 2012, and then left in a holding cell unattended for nearly a week with his hands cuffed behind him. He drank his own urine to survive.


The DEA agents had busted him at the house of a friend in San Diego where it was suspected an ecstasy drug ring was operating. The authorities seized 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana, magic mushrooms and firearms, and arrested nine people. Chong admitted he had gone there the night before to party on 4/20, a traditional day of celebration for marijuana smokers.


Seven arrestees were eventually taken to a county detention facility, one was released and it was quickly determined that Chong was not involved. The authorities placed the engineering student in a holding cell at a DEA office and told him they would return shortly.


They did not. 


When the mistake was discovered, Chong was severely dehydrated, he had lost 15 pounds, his liver and kidneys were giving out, his sodium levels were off the charts, his muscles had atrophied and he was hallucinating. He had broken his glasses and tried using shards to carve a goodbye message to his mother on his body. He only got as far as an “S” for “sorry.”


He was finally found covered in feces and taken to Sharp Hospital, where he ended up in intensive care. He sued for $20 million.


Chong was not charged with a crime and the DEA apologized for its mistake.

-Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Daniel Chong, Student Left In DEA Cell, to Get $4 Million from US in Settlement (by Elliot Spagat and Alicia A. Caldwell, Associated Press)

DEA Agrees to Pay $4.1 Million to Student They Locked in a Cell for Days (by Arturo Garcia, Raw Story)

DEA to Pay $4.1 Million to Student Forgotten in Holding Cell for 5 Days (by Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times)

Student Forgotten in Cell by DEA “Glad to be Alive,” Lawyer Says (by Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times)


anonamouse 8 years ago
So the gov't can track virtually every electronic communication on the planet, but it can't keep track of citizens thrown into its own gulag? Of course, the $4 million comes out of our collective hides. No one at the DEA is paying for this outrage out of theirs. My guess, a wrist-slap for some low-level schmuck, the one who put Mr Chang in the cage and "forgot" about him. End Prohibition now.

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