Florida man spends 41 days in jail after laundry detergent mistaken for heroin, officials say

Matt Crull, 29, was one of 11 people falsely accused of drug possession

Matt Crull, 29, was falsely arrested for heroin (screengrab from WPBF via the Miami Herald)

MIAMI – For nearly six weeks, 29-year-old Matt Crull said he sat inside a Florida jail for a crime he didn't commit.

The charge was trafficking heroin, according to CBS12. It came with a steep potential punishment and bond, which frightened Crull, who said an officer mistook laundry detergent for heroin.

"It's very surreal when you're sitting in jail with half a million dollars' bond," Crull told WPBF25, "And you can't go anywhere, knowing that (you) didn't do wrong."

"In the past, when I have gone to jail, it's been something where I knew I wasn't going to be there forever," Crull said, according to WPTV. "It's a lot different than going to jail and the charge of trafficking of heroin carries a penalty of 25 years in prison."

Crull was arrested by Martin County Sheriff's deputy Steven O'Leary on Dec. 5, according to WPTV. Sheriff William Snyder said the officer has been fired after an investigation uncovered that at least 11 people he put in jail on drug charges were found innocent, the TV station reported.

"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," Snyder said, according to WPTV. The TV station reported that Crull may sue for damages.

Crull was sleeping inside his van in a parking lot before the arrest, according to CBS12. Officers got word of a "suspicious van" and went to check it out.

That's when police say O'Leary found a bag of Tide laundry detergent and claimed a field test proved it was heroin, CBS12 reported.

"He showed me a picture of the field test kit that he supposedly conducted, on his phone," Crull told CBS 12. "He never actually showed me the real test kit."

Crull said he was confused about how a drug was found in his car in the first place.

"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," he told WPTV.

Snyder said they "couldn't find anything credible with what O'Leary stated" and freed the 11 people, including Crull, who had been accused of possessing drugs, as reported by CBS12.

Now Crull has a message for the officer, whose arrest stole weeks of his life away.

"I'm not saying he ruined my life," Crull told WPBF25. "But he definitely caused me a lot of emotional distress and a lot of stress on my family."