Matt Crull knew he was innocent of heroin trafficking, but he was in jail anyway.
As CBS12 reports, the 29-year-old from Jensen Beach, Florida was sleeping in his car in the parking lot of a KFC on December 5 when he was awakened by paramedics and sheriff’s deputies. Someone had called in a report of a suspicious van — Crull’s van.
A deputy searched Crull’s car and came up with a baggie of white powder, closed with a hair tie, which had been in the driver’s side door. Crull believed it was laundry detergent, but Deputy Steven O’Leary insisted it was heroin. Crull told WPTV:
“I just looked at him baffled and confused because I had no idea as to where 92 grams of heroin came from inside my van.”
In fact, Crull hadn’t owned the car for long. It was an Astro Van he’d bought three weeks earlier for only $1400. The street price of the 92 grams of heroin the deputy was showing him would have been about $18,000. It didn’t make sense to Crull that someone would leave that in his car.
However, Crull’s insistence that the powder was Tide detergent (and not his detergent at that) didn’t persuade the police. O’Leary informed Crull that a field test proved he had heroin in his car. Crull told CBS12:
“He showed me a picture of the field test kit that he supposedly conducted, on his phone. He never actually showed me the real test kit.”
Crull was arrested and charged with trafficking heroin. He told WYFF, “I really freaked out. I started panicking and didn’t really know what to think.”
As Crull explained to WPTV, he had been in trouble with the law before, but never in a situation this serious. Every other time he’d known he’d be out of jail soon, which is, “a lot different than going to jail and the charge of trafficking of heroin carries a penalty of 25 years in prison.”
Things would only get worse. A judge raised Crull’s bond so high that Crull started to wonder if he’d ever get out of jail. He told CBS 12:
“It made the situation very real. He raised my bond to $100k to half a million dollars, so there was really no way I was getting out of jail.”
Crull spent 41 days in jail on heroin charges. He missed Christmas and other big events with his family. And he had no idea how to prove his innocence. He told WYFF:
“Very surreal when you’re sitting in jail with a half a million dollars bond, and you can’t go anywhere knowing that you didn’t do wrong.”
Finally, after weeks in jail, a lab test proved that Crull had been telling the truth all along. The white powder in his van was laundry detergent, not heroin.
Crull was freed from jail, along with ten other people who had been arrested by the same deputy for the same thing — “drugs” that later proved to be a legal substance.
O’Leary was fired by the sheriff’s office. His other arrests are now under review.
Sheriff Willam Snyder told WPTV that his office was shocked to discover O’Leary’s corruption:
“No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, just based on the law of possibilities there’s always a possibility that one bad apple will slip through.”
O’Leary has not yet been charged with a crime, but Crull hopes the deputy will have to answer for what he did. Now, Crull is home, back to work, and hoping to put the incident behind him. He told WYFF:
“I’m not saying he ruined my life but he definitely caused me a lot of emotional distress and a lot of stress on my family.”