For five days in 2012, the Drug Enforcement Agency held Daniel Chong without food and water, then released him without charges. When the DEA announced its punishment of the agents in March, two agents were given minor suspensions and four others reprimands.
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) doesn’t think that’s enough.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform member has issued a statement calling on the Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights investigation into the DEA’s treatment of Chong.
“Leaving Mr. Chong locked in a room without food or water appears to have been a violation of his civil and constitutional rights,” said Lieu. “The current DOJ solution to this matter - a review of DEA internal disciplinary process - is simply not good enough.”
The Justice Department Office of the Inspector General did do a report on the matter last summer. That report found that Chong, then a 23-year-old University of California - San Diego student, was swept up in a drug bust at a friend’s house, where he had been smoking marijuana. The agents put Chong in a 5-by-10-foot windowless holding cell for five days.
In isolation, Chong was cuffed with his hands behind his back, at times, in total darkness. Without food and water, he was forced to drink his own urine to stay hydrated and was found delirious and suffering from breathing problems.
Chong filed a claim upon his release and in 2013, the DEA paid Chong a $4.1 million settlement.
But attention was re-kindled this year when the punishment of the DEA officers involved in the Chong case was announced.
“Those who perpetrated this abuse must be held accountable," Lieu said in a statement, "and a message must be sent that these kinds of actions cannot, must not happen again.”