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Saturday 24 March 2018

£2.67m for US student left in cell

A young man was left forgotten in a US prison for several days
A young man was left forgotten in a US prison for several days

A 25-year old college student has reached a 4.1 million US dollar (£2.67 million) settlement with the US government after he was abandoned in a windowless cell for more than four days without food or water, his lawyers have said.

Daniel Chong said he drank his own urine to stay alive, hallucinated that agents were trying to poison him with gasses through the vents, and tried to carve a farewell message to his mother in his arm.

It remains unclear how the situation occurred and no-one has been disciplined, according to Eugene Iredale, Mr Chong's lawyer. The Justice Department's inspector general is investigating.

Mr Chong said: "It sounded like it was an accident - a really, really bad, horrible accident."

He was taken into custody during a drug raid and placed in the cell in April 2012 by a police officer authorised to perform Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) work. The officer told Mr Chong he would not be charged and said: "'Hang tight, we'll come get you in a minute'," Mr Iredale said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Allison Price confirmed the settlement figure but declined to answer other questions. The DEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr Chong said he planned to save and buy his parents a house with the payout.

He was a 23-year-old economics student at University of California San Diego when he went to a friend's house in the University City area where the DEA found 18,000 ecstasy pills, other drugs and weapons. Mr Iredale acknowledged that Mr Chong was there to consume marijuana.

Mr Chong and eight other people were taken into custody at a DEA field office in Kearny Mesa, but authorities decided against pursuing charges against him after questioning. He said he began to hallucinate on the third day in the cell. He claims to have urinated on a metal bench so he could have something to drink and says he stacked a blanket, his trousers and shoes on a bench and tried to reach an overhead fire sprinkler, trying with his cuffed hands to set it off.

The student said he accepted the possibility of death. He bit into his glasses to break them and used a shard of glass to try to carve "Sorry Mom" onto his arm so he could leave something for her. He only managed to finish an "S".

Mr Chong said he slid a shoelace under the door and screamed to get attention before five or six people found him covered in faeces in the cell. He was in hospital for five days for dehydration, kidney failure, cramps and a perforated oesophagus. He is said to have lost 15lbs.

Press Association

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