More Drug War Success: Pot Smoking College Student Forgotten in Cell for 4 Days

Via the Lookout:  DEA agents apologize for forgetting college student in cell for four days

Daniel Chong, 24, said that he was taken to the local DEA office after he was caught in a drug raid where he was smoking marijuana on April 20. The agents didn’t charge him criminally and even told him they would drive him home, but apparently forgot about him in a tiny holding cell, where he languished for days without food, water, or a bathroom. Chong says he finally gave up on screaming for help, and eventually tried to kill himself with the glass from his spectacles and drank his own urine, sure he would die there.

A DEA agent discovered him days later and quickly called an ambulance which drove him to the hospital, where he spent three days in intensive care because of his near-failing kidneys, he said.


San Diego DEA agent Amy Roderick said earlier on Wednesday in a statement to Yahoo News that Chong was caught in a home raid on a “suspected MDMA distribution organization” that also netted several weapons, 18,000 MDMA (“ecstasy”) pills, marijuana, and hallucinogenic mushrooms. “The individual in question was at the house, by his own admission, to get high with his friends,” she wrote. She admitted in the statement that Chong was “accidentally” left in one of the holding rooms, while eight other suspects were either released or transfered to the county jail. Chong also told agents he ate a packet of white powder he found in his cell, which turned out to be meth. “DEA plans to thoroughly review both the events and detention procedures on April 21st  and after,” Roderick wrote.


FILED UNDER: US Politics, ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Chad S says:

    What the DEA did was illegal and wrong(and they’ll have to write him a large check), but it appears he was more then some “pot smoking teenager”. He was in a home being used for a major drug distribution operation it appears.

  2. @Chad S: well, since the DEA wasn’t going to press charges , it would appear that the didn’t think he was much more than a pot smoker. Indeed, had he been of any significance they likely wouldn’t have forgotten him, yes?

  3. Tillman says:

    Y’know this, by itself, isn’t worth ending the Drug War over.

    But man does it add up.

  4. walt moffett says:

    He should also recieve in addition to a seven figure check, a hand written apology letter from as high up the DEA/DOJ food chain as possible and a plaque holding the badges of the former DEA agents responsible. When you take someone into custody, you have responsibilities.

  5. James H says:

    plaque holding the badges heads of the former DEA agents responsible.


  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    A 24 year-old, pot-smoking kid named Chong who’s still in college? Somewhere Tommy Chong just got an idea for another movie.

    That aside, there’s no question we’re spending far too many federal tax dollars on drug offenses. Were I made emperor with plenary powers I would defund the DEA. I’d also radically reorganize the DOJ to focus their attention almost entirely on terrorism-related items.

    Unless we’re talking about ports and borders drugs as I see it entirely are state law issues and they should be handled by the individual states. If local authorities in San Diego want to go after drug centers that’s their prerogative. The Feds need not and should not be involved.

  7. Franklin says:

    I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you a deal: eliminate the DEA and we’ll forget the whole thing ever happened.

  8. Franklin says:

    @Chad S:

    He was in a home being used for a major drug distribution operation it appears.

    Oh, no, not that! (And being in a home used for drug distribution does what, exactly? Please be specific about who he victimized.)

  9. Tillman says:

    Jesus. You mean all I need to earn seven figures is get wrongfully imprisoned by the DEA for four days? No wonder there are so many innocent inmates at Guantanamo: they got the wrong agency. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed must be furious.

  10. anjin-san says:

    He was in a home being used for a major drug distribution operation it appears.

    Well then he probably deserves to die of thirst.

  11. Tillman says:

    Huh. I think I just implied KSM is innocent.

  12. J-Dub says:

    He also apparently tried to carve a goodbye note to his parents onto his arm.

  13. ernieyeball says:

    Welcome to Chad Land where “presumed innocent” does not apply and depriving a citizen of liberty without “due process” is the norm.

  14. Chad S says:

    @Steven Taylor: You don’t know why they forgot about him, if he was a kingpin or not, prisoners aren’t supposed to be forgotten like this.

    @Franklin: The 18k xtc pills means this was more then some stoners hanging out.

    @anjin-san: Don’t put words in my mouth, especially when I say the complete opposite. Ok? Thanks.

  15. Chad S says:

    @ernieyeball: Please show where I said or implied anything close to that. I’ll give you a hint: I didn’t.

  16. @Chad S:

    You don’t know why they forgot about him, if he was a kingpin or not, prisoners aren’t supposed to be forgotten like this.

    No, they shouldn’t.

    However,, if they were going to book a kingpin, I expect that they would have been paying more attention.

    Who is more likely to be forgotten, the Pablo Escobar of San Diego or a pot smoker who wasn’t very important to being with?

  17. Chad S says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: From the facts in the record, it sounds like it didn’t matter either way. Chong said that he could hear agents/personnel near his cell and they ignored him when he banged on his door etc. Whether that was a hallucination or not is another matter. If real, then this was intentionally and they didn’t “forget” about him.

  18. ernieyeball says:

    it appears he was more then some “pot smoking teenager”. He was in a home being used for a major drug distribution operation it appears.

    is hardly presumed innocent.

  19. Chad S says:

    *intentional, not intentionally.

  20. Chad S says:

    @ernieyeball: Again: please show where I commented on his guilt or innocence. Chong wasn’t even charged by the DEA when they tossed him in a cell(which is another issue which makes no sense), so his “guilt” or “innocence” is irrelevant. I took issue with Steven’s characterization of him since he was in a drug hub.

    Why do I think that I shouldn’t have bothered with that explanation since you couldn’t understand what I said in any other posts.

  21. Franklin says:

    OK, so I get that you are apparently disagreeing with Taylor’s headline that implies he was doing nothing but smoking pot. But your implication that he was doing a lot more than that (since you are so concerned with how much of what kind of drugs were in the house) is just as lacking in evidence.

    Which way do you want it? Because you’re trying to play two sides here – “Steven is wrong but I’m right. Even though I keep commenting on this being a big drug operation, I really haven’t commented on his guilt or innocence.” You’ll note that Steven didn’t comment on his guilt or innocence either, so he’s just as right or wrong as you are.

  22. Chad S says:

    @Franklin: My initial post is rather clear. I took issue with Steven’s headline. I thought it was meant to convey a minimized impression of what Chong was swept up in or with. Chong was arrested at the location of a giant drug operation. I didn’t say or imply that Chong was part of the operation but calling him just a pot smoker seems in error as well. I would have no issue with “More drug war success: DEA arrests college student who was forgotten for 4 days in a cell”.

  23. sam says:

    That’s bad, alright, but this is off any scale you can come up with:

    New Mexico driver arrested and forgotten in jail for two years:

    A 58-year-old New Mexico man has been awarded $22 million in one of the largest ever federal civil rights settlements of its kind. For 22 months, Stephen Slevin was held in solitary confinement and never brought to trial.

    He wasn’t the victim of the National Defense Authorization Act, which since being signed last month give the president permission to detain Americans without charge. Slevin was arrested in August 2005 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. From then until May 2007, he was essentially forgotten in a small, padded cell with no natural sunlight in a Dona Ana County, New Mexico prison cell.

    Slevin says that prison guards watched him fall apart, mentally and physically, but did not answer his pleas for help for nearly two years.

    “Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help,” he tells a local NBC station. Prison officials would regularly walk by, but despite his cries they were unresponsive. Instead, he says, they were watched him “deteriorate.”

    Almost two years after he entered the facility, Slevin was released and now, nearly five years after being freed, a jury in Santa Fe federal court awarded him $22 million. The man’s attorneys tell CNN that shortly before the jury considered a verdict, the country had attempted to settle to the tune of only $2 million. The jury came to their own amount on Tuesday and said $22 million was more appropriate for the “deplorable” conditions Slevin was subjected to.


    The county isn’t too happy with the decision.

    “There was a verdict against the county and we certainly plan to appeal it,” county spokesman Jess Williams tells the Las Cruces Sun-News. “We feel we have a strong case, at multiple levels, to pursue the appeal.”

  24. anjin-san says:

    @ Chad

    but it appears he was more then some “pot smoking teenager”. He was in a home being used for a major drug distribution operation it appears.

    Do you have any evidence that he really was “more then some pot smoking teenager”?

    How is his place on the druggie food chain even relevant to this situation?

  25. matt says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Once again your clueless tendencies are on full display. I’m 30 and “still in college” because it took me about a decade to realize that I didn’t enjoy being a store manager and that I’d much rather be doing something else. Based on the people in my classes I’m obviously not the only one who has had such an experience.

  26. matt says:

    @anjin-san: You see Chad’s argument all the time. Hell every Trayvon Martin related blog post here results in a certain set of people screaming about how he was a drug using thug. For some reason the fact that the person is guilty of a minor crime is enough to excuse any ridiculous treatment of that person. What’s funny is that people like Chad commit on average 3 felonies a day and don’t even realize it.

  27. Chad S says:

    @anjin-san: He was in a house used for a major drug distribution network. No, I have no idea whether or not Chong was involved with it, but if the cops pull you over for a speeding ticket and a friend of yours leaves a kilo of coke in your trunk(which they find), guess what: you can be charged with possession.

    @matt: Really? Where did I say at all that Chong’s treatment was justified? Oh wait, in my very first comment, I wrote this: “What the DEA did was illegal and wrong(and they’ll have to write him a large check)”. Feel free to retract your accusation. And for the record, Zimmerman, imo, should have been arrested for murder the night he shot Martin. His story stank from the beginning imo.

  28. al-Ameda says:

    As with Afghanistan, we should in the case of the ongoing War on Drugs, declare victory and bring home the troops.

    You just cannot make up stories like this. No wonder fiction is dead.

  29. matt says:

    @Chad S: That’s a nice job of selective editing but there’s much more to what you said.

    What the DEA did was illegal and wrong(and they’ll have to write him a large check), but it appears he was more then some “pot smoking teenager”. He was in a home being used for a major drug distribution operation it appears.

    The treatment of the dude was terrible BUT he was found at a house known for being a major drug distribution point so it’s ALLLL good.

  30. mattb says:

    @Chad S (and to others)…

    Matt (not me) has a really good point about the effects of using “but.” in a statement or argument. Generally speaking, “but” as a contrasting conjunction. The net effect of joining two ideas with but is effectively negating the previous idea.

    For Example:
    You’re a valued employee, but we have to let you go.
    Of course I believe Obama was born in the US, but I still think he should release his long form birth certificate to prove it.

    So whether or not you intended the negation, it reads that way. If you don’t intend the negation, either break things up into two sentences or use an affirmative/non-contrasting conjunction like “and.”