UC San Diego Student Wins $4.1 Million Suit Against DEA

When we see news items concerning the Drug Enforcement Administration, there’s usually a positive spin.  For example, though Californians have been embroiled in a bout with the federal government for some time over the legitimacy of medical marijuana, and its legality (SB 420 & Prop 215) the DEA continues to make busts in the state – without respecting voters’ wishes.  Now, however, Californians can chalk at least one more thing up in the negative column when it comes to this particular federal agency. And it involves a 23-year-old man named Daniel Chong.

In April of 2012, the DEA conducted a drug raid in San Diego and arrested 8 people, including Chong – a UC San Diego engineering student who happened to be visiting his friend’s home at the time. After having interrogated Daniel, DEA agents were able to surmise that he had nothing to do with the 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana, and magic mushrooms that were recovered during the raid.  They told him that, as it was a misunderstanding and that all he had to do was wait in the holding cell for a short while – a cell that had no windows and was approximately 5 feet by 10 feet in area.  So Chong waited, handcuffed, for them to return – for 4 days.

It seems that they’d forgotten about Chong completely.  He had to survive by drinking his own urine, collecting it on a metal bench that seems to have been the only furniture in the room.  After beginning to hallucinate, attempting to reach the sprinkler in the ceiling, and crying out repeatedly for assistance, Chong decided to accept what he believed to be the inevitable – death.  He broke his eyeglasses with his teeth and began to carve a message to his mother on his arm: “Sorry, Mom.” By the time the DEA remembered him, he’d lost 15 pounds and was covered in his own filth.  Chong also suffered renal failure, a perforated esophagus, and severe dehydration.

Although the Justice Department has issued a formal and public apology, Chong’s story should serve as a wake-up call for the citizens of this nation, especially considering that there have been no disciplinary charges levied as of yet.  If the DEA has this level and amount of power, then where does this leave the average person who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time?