At the beginning of December a man was incarcerated and charged after he was found with what the arresting officer believed to be just under 100 grams of heroin, but more than a month later was revealed as laundry detergent powder.
On December 5, 29-year-old Matthew Crull ended his work day and settled down in a KFC parking lot where he decided to rest his eyes and sip off a can of beer.
Someone saw the man and called in to report him, and Deputy Steven O’Leary from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office dispatched to the location to investigate the situation.
When the deputy approached the van he reported that he saw an opened beer and what he believed was marijuana sitting in the center console, and Crull was napping at the wheel of the parked vehicle.
O’Leary questioned Crull, who was reported as saying that he was hanging out in the parking lot and drinking a beer before going home after work.
Crull’s van was searched by O’Leary, who found a bag with 92 grams of white powder in one of the door compartments. A field test was performed and O’Leary recorded that it came back showing that the bag contained heroin. Crull was shown a picture of the test kit allegedly used on the substance and O’Leary asked him to verbally confirm the results based off the photograph but did not present him with the physical test kit.
Crull, using the coded chart on the test in the picture he was shown, identified the results as positive for heroin and explained that he was not a hard drug user and the bag was not his. He additionally mentioned that he had recently purchased the vehicle and purported that it may have been there at the time of purchase.
O’Leary took Crull, who was out on bond for an unrelated pot possession charge, into custody and he was booked into the county jail in lieu of $100,000 for suspicion of felony heroin trafficking, one count of misdemeanor possession of marijuana for the one gram reportedly found in the van, and one count of misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.
As shown in the affidavit, O’Leary recorded, “it should be noted I re-tested the substance for Heroin at the MCJ which yielded a positive result,” to back up his initial on-scene testing of the powder.
Crull spent a handful of days incarcerated, and when he appeared before a judge his bond amount raised to $500,000 for the heroin trafficking charge. Since he lacked the financial means to meet those conditions Crull was returned to jail.
On January 9, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office was notified by an assistant state attorney regarding three samples from different cases that were recorded as containing narcotics that had been tested again at the regional crime lab, but those results showed no illicit substances were found.
The samples were traced to arrests made by Deputy O’Leary, who had been employed with the department for an 11-month probationary period. O’Leary, who had made approximately 80 arrests for drugs during his near-year with the department, was fired, and the three suspects who were wrongfully accused were released with their charges dismissed.
In light of the discovery that the evidence in at least three cases was falsified the authorities began to have over 100 samples re-tested to ensure their validity.
Matthew Crull spent a total of 41 days in custody until he was released after the alleged heroin confiscated from his arrest was re-tested and showed to be laundry detergent.
After Crull was let out of jail he gave an interview with a local news outlet and he tearfully expressing the pain he felt from missing his family, and his inability to celebrate Christmas with them. After being labeled as a possible “heroin trafficker” by newspapers, Crull wanted to state publicly that he knew he hadn’t done anything wrong, and he just wants to move on with his life.
Eleven other individuals who were facing drug charges due to arrests by O’Leary containing evidence that did not test positive for narcotics have also been released thus far, and the evidence obtained from the other arrests he made is still being investigated.
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said that nothing up to this point suggests that O’Leary planted false evidence on the suspects, but he may still face criminal charges for his allegations against those who were wrongfully accused.
If you or someone you love is suspected of a crime, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.