Student Left in DEA Cell For Days to Get $4.1M Settlement

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 31 2013 8:41 AM

Student Left in DEA Cell For Days Without Food and Water Lands $4.1-Million Settlement

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The seal of the Drug Enforcement Administration is seen on a lectern before the start of a press conference at DEA Headquarters on June 26, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

A little more than a year ago, the DEA formally apologized to Daniel Chong, the UC-San Diego engineering student who was abandoned in a 5-by-10-foot, windowless holding cell for more than four days without food or water. Yesterday, the government agreed to pay Chong $4.1 million to settle the 20-something's $20-million claim, reports the Associated Press.

Chong's terrifying ordeal began when he went to a friend's place in April 2012 for a party and ended up staying the night. The next morning, DEA agents raided the apartment and detained Chong and half-dozen or so others; the agency said it recovered 18,000 ecstasy hits and weapons in the raid. But after being questioned at an agency field office, Chong says he was told that authorities believed he had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he would soon be released. Then, he says, he was placed in the dark cell and forgotten for the next four-plus days—despite kicking and screaming for help. He grew delusional, drank his own urine for hydration, and, eventually, attempted suicide by breaking his glasses and using the shards to cut himself, according to his account.

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The DEA confirmed the settlement but is declining to answer any specific questions about how the nightmare could have happened. No one has been disciplined, according to one of Chong's attorneys, and the Justice Department's inspector general is currently investigating. Chong, for his part, believes it was simply a mistake. "It sounded like it was an accident—a really, really bad, horrible accident," he told the AP.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.