Pot bust started with large bong cops said they saw on his back seat

Matthew Hale
Matthew Hale

When a Monroe County sheriff’s deputy asked a Florida Keys man about the large bong sitting in plain view on the back seat of his pickup truck early Saturday morning, police say the man asked if he was “asking as a friend or a cop.”

That was the beginning of trouble for Matthew Hale, 21, of Tavernier, who deputies said had more than a half a pound of marijuana in his Ford F-150, plastic bags cops say are used for packaging and selling pot, a marijuana grinder, and a digital scale.

Hale, who could not be reached for comment, was arrested on possession with intent to sell marijuana, a felony, and misdemeanor possession of drug equipment. He was released from county jail later in the day Saturday, but his bond information is not immediately available.

Deputy Joel Torres wrote in his arrest report that he pulled Hale over after watching him not stop his truck at a stop sign on the corner of Laguna Avenue and U.S. 1 around 1:40 a.m. Hale pulled over in the CVS drug store parking lot at mile marker 99. Torres saw the bong after walking up to the driver’s side window, he wrote in his report.

When he searched the pickup, Torres stated in his report that he found multiple small bags of packaged pot, a partially smoked marijuana cigarette, unused baggies, the grinder and the scale. Torres also found “shake” marijuana, or basically marijuana crumbs throughout the floorboard, according to the report.

“I believed there was sufficient probable cause to conclude Hale was in the business of selling/distributing marijuana,” Torres wrote.

On the way to Plantation Key jail, Hale told Torres he was in the business of “helping people,” Torres wrote in his report.

“He repeated this motif multiple times, and I understood it to mean he dispensed marijuana to individuals in an effort to ‘help’ them,” Torres wrote. “He stated he had gotten into the business but recently gotten back in.”

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.