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Calif. Student Left In Cell Sues DEA for $20M

May 03, 2012  | 

A University of California student who went "completely insane" after Drug Enforcement Administration agents accidentally left him alone in a cell for five days has sued the agency for $20 million.

Daniel Chong, 23, filed the claim against the DEA on Thursday, a day after the agency's San Diego office apologized to him, reports the Los Angeles Times. The lawsuit claims the treatment constitutes torture.

Chong, who was detained in an April 20 drug sting, spent three days in the intensive-care unit and is still recovering from his ordeal. Here's an excerpt, courtesy of CBS News:

The student said he ingested a white powder that he found in the cell. Agents later identified it as methamphetamine. Chong said he ingested it to survive. The next day, hallucinations started, he said. They included Japanese animation characters who told him to dig into the walls to search for water, which he tried, tearing apart the wall's plastic lining.

Chong was handcuffed during the raid, but told by agent that he would be released.

Comments (14)

Displaying 1 - 14 of 14

martyb @ 5/3/2012 4:44 PM

Maybe this spoiled rotten rich kid will put his bong away forever and become a legitimate contributor to society. If you to to some place where they throw turds into a fan ya just might get turd splattered on you...

BW @ 5/3/2012 5:20 PM

martyb: Being in the vicinity of drugs certainly does not deserve the punishment of torture. Court of public opinion strikes again...

Leonard J. Mather, PhD @ 5/3/2012 5:24 PM

Chong should consult Cheech for intellectual stimulation as to why a white powder in a holding cell should be eaten in order to survive. As a Forensic Psychologist, I would recommend that the lawsuit be heard with a jury of Cheech's peers in order to bring in some logic. Or, it would be perfect if the Judge asked the DEA agent(s) to spend the same number of days in the cell that Chong claims cause all his torture, his hallucinations and catastrophised ORDEAL. Perhaps this level playing field will bring Chong in line with his Cheech thinking.

Bud @ 5/3/2012 6:45 PM

Forget my pertuity, it does constitute torture and maybe a jury trial will bring some common sense into law enforcement. What would have happened if Chong was a Diabetic, it would constituted murder in the Worse Degree.

RA retired Fed @ 5/3/2012 7:33 PM

Chong deserves some restitution. DEA must correct this problem asap. Maybe a few good BOP guys could help out the DEA and show them how to house prisoners properly..... Cant house bad guys if you do not know how to manage them properly.

Rick @ 5/3/2012 8:54 PM

The report says agents, with an s, which means more than one. Didn't any of them realize that he had been left in the cell?

On the other hand, I'm not buying his story about eating a white powder to stay alive. What a crock.

Tim Martin @ 5/4/2012 2:33 AM

Good thing after going "completely insane" he got back enough insanity to ask for $20 mil. A human go go ten days to two weeks without food. Water is another story. I'm sure between the meth and dehydration he was pretty screwed up. DEA is gonna be out a couple mil at least. The lawyer will end up with most of it tho.

Rev. Lowrey @ 5/4/2012 4:45 AM

As this story was more fully reported, he had no drugs when arrested with a group of people and was supposed to be released, but was left handcuffed and forgotten. Those here who demean him and consider his treatment "not so bad" should try it out for themselves. I also wonder why he found drugs in the cell. A friend of mine bought a used police cruiser once and found drugs in it. Cops need to pay better attention to detail and develop a respect for civil liberties. Eating the white powder may have been dumb, but some of the comments by cops and the attitudes that go with them are well beyond dumb. This guy was wrongly arrested. Wrongly held. Abused, subject to police neglect and deserves a huge settlement. The officers involved should be canned.

Jim @ 5/4/2012 6:32 AM

I strongly disagree with the statement that this suspect was wrongly arrested. That conclusion cannot necessarily be drawn from the information given and all were in constructive possession of the controlled substance. Everyone can be arrested. Conviction may be another matter.

I do agree that some have said that five days in a cell without food or water is not so bad. It is terrible. It does amount to abuse and negligence of duty. It is such an oversight that it will certainly cost the public millions. And it is true the lawyer will get half.

And it is also true that we as law enforcement officers need to be mindful of the civil liberties of others. But please, Reverend Lowrey, be as mindful of the civil liberties of those law enforcement officers that are putting their lives on the line to protect you and your family. Most of us are just trying to do a good job for you under the worst of circumstances and under the slanted opinion and blind eye of unknowing, partial witnesses who could NEVER in a million years do what we have to do. I do appreciate your your comments and will keep them in mind as I work today. Bless you, sir.


Capt David-Ret LA County @ 5/4/2012 9:24 AM

Left in a cell unattended for 5 days. If that's true some heads should roll. I knew lots of DEA guys, some stupid as hell and others brilliant. Wonder which one was monitoring the holding area?

Leonard J. Mather @ 5/4/2012 5:24 PM

Addressing Bud of 5/3/12. Your pertuity (sic) is excused, since there is no such word in the English language. You also offered a coulda/shoulda/woulda on the "if he were Diabetic." Carrying your position to a reductio ad absurdum, if he were never born, this would not have occurred. If he were sick and stayed home, he would not have been arrested. Time will tell regarding the ultimate outcome. Nonetheless, he is a fool for eating white powder.

R. G. Montgomery @ 5/4/2012 9:20 PM

Forgetting him in the cell AFTER the decision to let him go is really inexcusable.

The thing that really ruffles my feathers over this is whatever finally gets paid to Chong and lawyer will come from my pocket; tax money.

Joe @ 5/5/2012 9:54 AM

Let's make no mistake and deal with the real world aspects that we know beyond any doubt. Once we have ANYONE in our custody, our legal and professional responsibilities kick in. Anyone who suggest that we operate on a sliding scale of treatment based on 'our' perception of the detainee's culpability is clueless and has never faced the responsibilities certified law enforcement professionals are given. Keep in mind any kangaroo court opinions vaporize in a formal court of law and instead will indict and convict you of dereliction of duty.

Ima Leprechaun @ 5/6/2012 4:18 AM

This guy deserves every dime he can get. I gathered from the national media he was arrested for questioning only and never charged with a crime. Makes you wonder how many other times this happened to other people. Why did this cell not meet basic Bureau of Prisons standards? Even temporary holding cells have to meet federal guidelines and this one doesn't. If I was on the jury 20 million would be where we'd start.

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