MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. – A former Martin County sheriff’s deputy is facing serious charges after accusations concerning his history of drug busts led to his arrest on Tuesday.
Officials say that 29-year-old Steven O’Leary was taken into custody in Leon County, Florida today in connection with alleged false narcotics arrests.
Investigators say that the former law enforcement official had claimed to find narcotics during numerous traffic stops while working for the county. Those illegal drugs turned out not to be narcotics.
NBC 5 reported that O’Leary made a total of three false narcotics arrests while working for the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.
So what did those substances turn out to be?
A crime lab that investigated the case determined that one of the substances seized was a powder that’s often used to treat headaches. Another was a sand-based material and containing no narcotics.
O’Leary was fired from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in January of 2019 after the State’s Attorney reportedly discovered some issues with a number of his cases.
20 individuals have announced that they are filing lawsuits against O’Leary in the alleged false arrests. Those lawsuits include claims of wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and more.
After his arrest on Monday, the former deputy is facing a laundry list of charges, including official misconduct, false statements, tampering with evidence, false imprisonment, petit theft and battery.
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Prosecutors are now combing through approximately 80 other drug arrests that the former lawman was part of in his year-long career with the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff William Snyder said that,
“It does not appear, after beginning to look at the 80 some odd cases, that any evidence was planted.”
However, CBS 12 reported that a recent affidavit alleged dozens of instances of tampering with evidence, lying, and false imprisonment between May and December 2018.
According to the sheriff, O’Leary had said that he performed a field test of the substances and claimed they all tested positive for narcotics.
“We will never be able to fully put every piece of this back together,” said Sheriff Snyder. “But we’ll learn from what we did, we’ll move forward, and we’ll be a stronger sheriff’s office as a result.”
Some say this might actually happen more than we realize. And mistakes like this can cause serious problems for civilians and law enforcement.
Greg Giuntini is an expert with DetectaChem Inc., a company that’s ensuring accurate results for police testing narcotics in the field… and ensuring officer safety.
“Cases like this are why it’s so important for our officers to have strong and accurate technology to help them determine what is a dangerous narcotic and what isn’t,” Giuntini said. “Our officers see different questionable substances every day, and without proper equipment – even standard kits from departments – it can be nearly impossible to tell the difference.”
DetectaChem utilize an entirely new design to ensure accuracy so mistakes like this don’t happen, taking the guess work out of trying to identify drugs by their color.
“Without a reliable system to correctly identify those substances, false arrests can and do occur. DetectaChem’s system allows officers to do their jobs and ensures that innocent people don’t go to jail.”
Records showed that O’Leary’s bail was set at $1 million.