Trials & Litigation

College student forgotten in DEA cell for nearly 5 days gets $4M settlement


A college student who spent nearly five days forgotten in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cell after being swept up in a drug raid at a friend’s home in the San Diego area last year has settled with the feds.

Daniel Chong, now 25, has agreed to accept $4.1 million for his ordeal, during which he said he hallucinated, drank his own urine and tried to carve a “sorry Mom” message into his arm with broken glass, according to the Associated Press, Reuters and the San Diego Union-Tribune. For the final two days, the cell was completely dark.

Chong lost 15 pounds and was hospitalized for five days after being found. He continues to suffer from post-traumatic-stress symptoms, his lawyer says.

The DEA, which made a rare public apology at the time, declined to comment on the settlement, the newspaper says. The U.S. Department of Justice will reportedly cover all costs of the settlement, although San Diego police were also involved in the drug raid.

New DEA procedures were adopted to prevent another such incident from occurring, including cameras in cells and daily inspections, and an inspector general’s investigation is ongoing. However, it isn’t clear why Chong was apparently forgotten, and no one has been disciplined, said Eugene Iredale, one of Chong’s lawyers.

“It sounded like it was an accident—a really, really bad, horrible accident,” said Chong.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Man Says He Was Held for 5 Days as Forgotten Prisoner in DEA Cell, Files $20M Claim Against Feds”

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