Patterns in almost anything are easy to find if you watch them closely enough—and the news is certainly no exception. Granted, the media always focuses on the most dramatic stories, the ones guaranteed to increase viewership and please the sponsors. And there will always be some overlap in the stories they present. Every so often, though, patterns form around a particular theme, crime, natural disaster or other random subject, pulling together stories seemingly unrelated on the surface, but connected on a much deeper—and often bizarre—level.
Unfortunately, the pattern I noticed today was one of suffering. And it came in the form of two high-profile cases involving two men on very different paths: Daniel Chong and Ariel Castro.
Some of you may not recognize the name Daniel Chong, but he is the engineering student from UC-San Diego who was recently apprehended by agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, tossed in a tiny holding cell and forgotten for five days. He is also the guy set to receive a whopping $4.1 million cash settlement from the U.S. Justice Department for his suffering. This may seem rather excessive—as it did to me the first time I heard it—but trust me, this poor bastard earned a good portion of that money after what he experienced.
Chong was busted in April 2012 during a small 420 celebration at a friend’s house. Incidentally, 420 is the number associated with marijuana, so smokers usually toke up at 4:20 in the afternoon—and sometimes even the morning—and celebrate even harder on April 20th (4/20). That’s what Chong was doing when he got swept up in the drug raid, never knowing his hosts also had guns, ammunition and a bag of 18,000 ecstasy pills in the house.
After being questioned thoroughly, agents realized that Chong was innocent and told him he would not be charged. Instead, they planned to release him, but placed him in a small holding cell in the meantime. The room was roughly 5-by-10 feet and there were no windows, which would have been meaningless if not for one unfortunate turn of events: Chong was left to rot in that cell for five days.
He banged on the walls, kicked the doors and screamed until his voice went hoarse, but to no avail. At one point he even heard employees milling around nearby, only none of them ever came to investigate or check on him. Chong was hungry, thirsty, alone and, most of all, desperate. So he kicked into survival mode and did something most of us wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy: he drank his own urine.
Hey, survival is survival, right?
Sadly, Chong’s mind started to drift during his third day of captivity. He started hallucinating and even admitted to being “completely insane,” which would explain why he crushed his glasses and swallowed pieces of the broken lenses in what thankfully became a failed suicide attempt. His initial plan was to use the glass to carve “sorry mom” on his arm, but he gave that up after completing only the “s.”
By the time agents finally came to get him, Chong was severely dehydrated, malnourished and incoherent. He had lost roughly 15 pounds and was—to put it bluntly—covered in shit. They rushed him to the hospital where he then spent five days in intensive care for kidney failure, dehydration, cramps and, of course, a pierced esophagus from the glass eating, and for what? Smoking some weed near a college campus in California… as if that never happens.
No offense, California. You know I love you, baby.
Needless to say, Chong sued and will now receive millions of dollars to help assuage the pain he suffered at the hands of the authorities. And now the DEA plans to place daily calls to their agents to ensure prisoners are not locked up and forgotten again. Of course, this will prevent any future multi-million dollar lawsuits, too, but I’m sure the prisoner welfare thing is the real reason for this new policy.
Either way, Chong is getting paid. And the moment he sees that $4.1 million check, I’m sure some of his suffering will be long forgotten. Too bad the same cannot be said for the victims of Cleveland’s Ariel Castro. We all know the suffering they endured at his hands will be with them for life.
For a decade or more, Castro kept three women prisoner in his home after kidnapping them off the street as children—Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry. During their forced incarceration, these poor women suffered through torture, rape and countless other abuses. They were chained up in the basement and the attic, deprived of basic necessities, pressured into sex with their captor and even impregnated by him, as was the case for Michelle Knight—Castro induced miscarriages five times by starving and beating her. This maniac even had the nerve to attend vigils for his prisoners in the local community and to interact with family members suffering from the pain that—unbeknownst to them—he himself produced!
Fortunately, Castro left home on May 6th and forgot to lock an inside door, which allowed Amanda Berry to get close enough to the front of the house to call for help. Neighbors Angel Cordero and Charles Ramsey heard Berry screaming, kicked a hole in the bottom of the door and helped the young woman out of her prison—along with the 7-year-old daughter she had with Castro in 2006. A quick call to police led to the rescues of DeJesus and Knight, as well as the arrest of Castro a short time later.
The nightmare was finally over and Castro was charged with 977 counts that included kidnapping, rape, assault, aggravated murder and attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to 937 of them as part of an agreement to spare his life and was recently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 1,000 years.
I guess dropping a millennium on Castro ensures he will never see the light of day again—except for brief visits to the prison yard for exercise and such. Of course, he may need to be isolated from the rest of the population because the odds of someone murdering him in prison should be fairly high.
Castro’s sentencing hearing took place on Thursday and was very emotional, not to mention disturbing. The emotional part came primarily from Michelle Knight, who was brave enough to be in the courtroom with her abuser and to read a prepared statement in his presence.
“My name is Michelle Knight, and I would like to tell you what 11 years were like for me,” Knight told the judge and everyone else in attendance. “I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day. Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity.”
The entire time that his victim was reading her statement, Castro sat quietly with a slight smirk on his face—as if he couldn’t believe she would have the audacity to lie in a court of law. When it was finally his turn to address the judge, Castro delivered what to me was a very disturbing speech, and one that illustrated just how horrible and depraved this man really is. I’m hesitant to reproduce any of it here, but will do so because we all need to understand just how evil some of our fellow humans can be. Here’s a little excerpt—I skip around a little, but feel free to check out the full transcript of his speech HERE:
“First of all, I am a very emotional person so I’m gonna try to get it out… I was a victim of sex acts when I was a child. This led me to view pornography for my whole life… these people are trying to paint me as a monster, and I’m not a monster. I’m sick… I’m repulsive… I believe I am addicted to porn to the point that it really makes me impulsive and I just don’t realize what I am doing is wrong… I am not trying to make excuses here… I’m a happy person inside… I continued to practice the art of masturbation and pornography and it got so bad that I used to do it like maybe two or three hours a day non-stop… when I picked up the first victim, I didn’t even plan it… I’m not a violent person… I was driven by sex… I am not a violent predator… I am a normal person… I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction… most of the sex that went on it that house, practically all of it was consensual… There was times that they would even ask me for sex… these allegations about being forceful on them, that is totally wrong… I just want to clear the record that I am not a monster, I did not prey on these women, I just acted on my sexual instincts because of my sex addiction… God as my witness, I never beat these women… I never tortured them… I ask God to forgive me… I’m sorry to all the victims… but I do also want to let you know that there was harmony in that home.”
It sounds like a load of you-know-what to me, even though there can be little doubt that Castro is a sick and demented individual. To think he blames a sexual addiction for his crimes. Would that prevent him from knowing the difference between right and wrong? Would that lead him to kidnap, torture and rape three young girls for more than a decade—girls he knew from the neighborhood and whose parents he went to school with, as was the case for Gina DeJesus’ father? I don’t think so. There has to be some deep-seeded, evil streak running through him to make something like this possible. After all, most of us don’t respond to our sexual urges through violent crime—at least I hope we don’t. And even though I hate to admit it—and despite this being fairly common among hot-blooded males—I used to look at porn frequently and never had the urge to make some innocent girl my sex slave.
There has to be something seriously wrong with Ariel Castro, but I could care less if he ever receives treatment for his self-identified affliction. Instead, I would much prefer for him to be chained up in a cell, deprived of almost everything and raped repeatedly by other prisoners until, finally, he experiences the same hell that he put these poor women through. Only then will justice truly be served.
Suffering in any form is never a good thing, even when it leads to a million dollar settlement as it did for Daniel Chong. The truth is that no amount of money can ever recover the person a victim was before they were made to suffer. Just ask Amanda, Michelle and Gina. These young women endured enough pain and suffering to last a lifetime. And no one deserves to suffer, least of all children.
Be good to each other. And by all means, be careful out there.
Posted on August 2, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged Ariel Castro, California, commentary, Crime and Justice, current-events, Daniel Chong, Drug Enforcement Agency, news, pain, perspectives, suffering. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.