“$4 Million in Compensation Set for Man Left in D.E.A. Cell”

A frightening incident reported in the New York Times that led to a lawsuit against the U.S. Government unit the Drug Enforcement Agency. This is one of those scary moments when I get to warn everybody that this could happen to you or your kid:

LOS ANGELES — A year after Daniel Chong, a San Diego college student, was found hallucinating and suffering from kidney failure inside a Drug Enforcement Administration holding cell where he had been accidentally left for four days, the agency has agreed to compensate him for his ordeal.

So the college kid was arrested at a friend’s house where he and other friends were smoking grass. (O.M.G: a bunch of college kids sitting around with friends toking. Have you ever heard of anything like this?) The D.E.A. tossed Mr. Chong into a cell and forgot about him, for days. No food, no water. By the time they remembered his existence, he had suffered kidney failure and was hallucinating.

Back when I worked for lawyers, we had an interaction with the D.E.A. The agents who came to our office to return our client’s possessions — which they had grabbed out of her apartment during a raid, although they had somehow failed to account for the cash they had collected — were hostile bullies and not very smart.

(How did we find out about the cash that was never accounted for, not even on their own official reports? Well, we listened to a tape from our client’s telephone answering machine, which the raiding agents had accidentally turned on. The machine had recorded the agents racist comments, as well as their discovery of the cash which subsequently disappeared, I wonder where.)

That’s when I developed my own I.Q. hierarchy for federal agents. The D.E.A. was way low on my list.

Let us dream: if the utterly failed war on drugs were to end, there would be no need for the D.E.A. and the billions of dollars you and I, as taxpayers, hand over to this pointless cause, and these swaggering dimwits. Given the case of young Mr. Chong, we could also call them sadistic and even murderous.

I trust that the Department of Justice is investigating this dreadful incident and will hold the agents criminally responsible.

By the way, for all of you who wonder about initial monetary demands on initial claims, Mr. Chong’s lawyer, Julia Yoo, originally asked for $20 million. She got $4 million in the settlement. I think that’s an unusually high ratio of success, especially after only a year. This was a very, very bad case.

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