Daniel Chong, the UC San Diego student who spent five days in a DEA holding cell after agents forgot he was there, unsurprisingly sued the agency, asking for $20 million -- but just as a starting point. His lawyers are already saying the figure represents the maximum they would seek, but they're ready to negotiate. Attorney Eugene Iredale told the San Diego Union Tribune's Jeff McDonald that they just have to put a number on claims against the feds, so they went with a high one.
But why not shoot high? For one thing, Chong's ordeal sounds completely awful: He drank his urine to survive, ate his broken glasses while in a hallucination, and (what sounds like maybe the worst part) at some point just stopped trying to get out of the cell and just resigned himself to "survival mode," The Associated Press' Julie Watson reports. Then there's the strength of his case, which sounds pretty rock-solid. The DEA has acknowledged its mistake and already apologized, promising "an extensive review" of its procedures, and Chong wasn't even in trouble -- he had been swept up in a bust at his friends' house but told he'd be released.
A $20 million settlement comes out to just more than $4 million a day, for what the lawsuit says is nothing short of torture. "The deprivation of food and water for four and one-half days while the person is handcuffed the entire time constitutes torture under both international and domestic law," the suit says, according to the Union Tribune. That seems like a not-unreasonable price for a torture reparation.