Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday morning in the trial of a Broward man who was fired from his job as a Pasco County Sheriff's deputy after he was accused of trying to meet an underage teen for sex in Davie.
Matthew Bondi, 22, has been on house arrest with a $200,000 bond at his parents' home in Deerfield Beach since shortly after his arrest in early August.
Bondi has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of attempting to coerce and entice a minor to engage in sexual activity. If convicted, he could face between 10 years and life in federal prison.
Bondi was arrested about 8 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Pine Ridge Plaza on State Road 84 in Davie. Authorities said he had arranged to meet a 15-year-old he met online last year on Grindr, an all-male, location-based social networking site that is mostly used for arranging sexual hookups. The two had also communicated on Snapchat.
The teen's father, a Davie police officer, confiscated his son's cell phone as punishment and turned it over to investigators when he found sexually explicit communications, according to court records filed Monday. The Sun Sentinel is not identifying the alleged victim because of his age and the nature of the charge.
The teen told investigators he had posed as an 18-year-old on Grindr, but detectives took control of the his phone during the summer after he said he informed men who communicated with him that he was 15.
Davie Detective Adam Granit testified he posed online as the boy and received sexually graphic messages from Bondi. Granit also said he told Bondi, who was 21 when they began communicating, on more than occasion that he was meeting a 15-year-old virgin.
Prosecutors said Bondi was planning to meet the teen and take him to a hotel for sex. Bondi, who had been working for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office for about 8 months and came home to Broward County to celebrate his 22nd birthday, was fired almost immediately after his arrest.
The prosecution said Bondi told a psychologist he had been "drinking for four days" before agreeing to meet the teen and it was a lapse of judgment.
Bondi's lawyer Mike Dutko declined to comment Monday but in court records, he emphasized Bondi has never met the alleged victim in person.
Bondi downloaded the Grindr app to his phone in October 2014 and "at that time, Bondi was extremely cautious and private about his bi-sexual curiosity and was quite discreet as to the information he put on his Grindr online profile," Dutko wrote.
Bondi received hundreds of inquiries but was "extremely selective, cautious and discreet" about his responses, Dutko wrote.
The alleged victim, at least initially, posed as an 18-year-old, and they "engaged in explicit and graphic phone sex or chat sex," using Snapchat, Dutko wrote. They communicated a number of times but never met up, he wrote.
In March, the teen told Bondi he was 16 and was about to turn 17, Dutko wrote.
"Bondi initially expressed concern because [the teen] had deceived him but then, upon reflection, considered that it was neither illegal nor immoral for a 21-year-old to have a relationship with a 17-year-old. Although Bondi wasn't interested in a relationship with an adolescent [the teen] appeared intelligent, compassionate, mature and discreet," Dutko wrote.
The two exchanged few — if any — messages for several months, according to court records.
The decision to try to meet the teen in August was "almost on a whim" while Bondi "was at his parents' home nursing a serious hangover and recovering from a night of too much drinking with his friends," Dutko wrote.
"After arriving and sitting in the parking lot for a few minutes, Bondi reconsidered the entire scenario and became very uncomfortable. As he began to drive away, Bondi was detained and arrested," Dutko wrote.
Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley is expected to begin picking jurors for the trial Tuesday in federal court in West Palm Beach.