University of California San Diego student Daniel Chong has been awarded $4.1 million in a settlement with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The settlement stems from an April 12, 2012, incident when Chong was left abandoned in a DEA holding cell for four days. He was not given any food or water while in the cell.
Chong was initially detained by DEA agents during a house raid. The raid found more than 18,000 ecstasy pills, other drugs and weapons. Eight other friends were detained along with Chong.
But after questioning Chong, DEA officials decided not to charge him. They put him in a 5-foot by 10-foot cell and said, according to Chong’s attorney, “Hang tight, we’ll come get you in a minute.”
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The cell door did not open for 4-and-a-half days. Chong was handcuffed the entire time.
Once Chong started to sense that he had been forgotten, he panicked. After several days, Chong drank his own urine to stay alive. He hallucinated that DEA agents were trying to poison him with gas. After accepting the possibility of death, Chong broke his glasses and tried to carve a message saying “Sorry Mom” into his arm. He lost an incredible 15 pounds while in the cell.
“This was a mistake of unbelievable and unimaginable proportions," said attorney Julia Yoo. "He's the strongest person I have ever met. As a result of his case, it's one of the primary reasons the DEA placed a nationwide policy that calls on each agent at satellite offices to check on the well-being of prisoners in their cells on a daily basis.”
After DEA agents finally took Chong out of the cell, he was hospitalized for four days. He was treated for dehydration, kidney failure, cramps and a perforated esophagus.