Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Forgotten inmate seeks £12m damages

A student who was left handcuffed and forgotten in a tiny holding cell for four days is suing US authorities for 20 million dollars (£12.4 million).

After two days and desperate for food and water, Daniel Chong said he realised he had to stop wondering when he would be let out and start thinking about how to stay alive.

Entering what he called "survival mode," and already drinking his own urine, he tried to trigger an overhead fire sprinkler for some water, stacking clothes and a blanket and swinging his cuffed arms in an attempt to set it off.

Mr Chong, 23, a student at the University of California, San Diego, had been picked up in a drug sweep but was never arrested or charged. He spent four days forgotten in the windowless cell before Drug Enforcement Administration agents opened the door.

"I just couldn't believe that this was legal," Mr Chong said. "I'm thinking 'no way.'" After his release, he spent five days in hospital for dehydration, kidney failure, cramps and a perforated oesophagus. He had lost 15lbs (6.8 kilos).

His lawyers have filed the 20 million dollar claim against the Drug Enforcement Administration, saying his treatment constitutes torture under US and international law.

The top DEA agent in San Diego, William R Sherman, said he was "deeply troubled" by what happened to Mr Chong. Mr Sherman said he has personally ordered an extensive review of his office's policies and procedures. The agency declined to say what those were.

Mr Chong was originally questioned then agents told him he was not a suspect and would be released shortly. He signed some paperwork, was put in handcuffs and sent back to the holding cell.

As the hours dragged into days, he said he kicked and screamed as loud as he could. At one point, he ripped a piece of his jacket off with his teeth and shoved it under the door, hoping someone would spot it and free him.

Mr Chong said he ingested a white powder that he found in the cell. Agents later identified it as methamphetamine. 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.


From Belfast Telegraph