Jackson County Deputy Arrested For Dropping Drugs On People's Vehicles And Other Felonies
Former Jackson Deputy Zach Wester was arrested Wednesday on charges he dropped street drugs like meth on automobilists during traffic stops and then hauled them off to jail.
Besides the racketeering count, Wester was also charged a number of other felonies such as false imprisonment, fabricating evidences, official misconduct, possession of a controlled substance, and also misdemeanor charges of perjury.
The investigation of Wester's felonies was opened on August the 1st at the request of the Sheriff’s Office and had been ongoing for nine months. Agents with The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested him and took to the Wakulla County Jail. Now Zachary Tyler Wester is being held in jail without bailing. His first court appearance is planned on Thursday, invoked his right to remain silent and declined to speak with investigators.
FDLE began its investigation last August at the request of the Sheriff's Office after whispers of misconduct by Wester began to surface around the courthouse. He was suspended Aug. 1 and fired a month later. During the internal investigation, deputies searching his patrol car found 42 pieces of drug paraphernalia, ten baggies of methamphetamine and five baggies of marijuana concealed in an unmarked and unsecured evidence bag in the trunk.
“The items located within Deputy Wester’s patrol car were not maintained as required of legitimate evidence, items for safe keeping or items for destruction,” the arrest affidavit says. “The multiple items located were consistent with, and similar in appearance to, items believed to have been used to fabricate evidence during (his) traffic stops and arrests.”
Wester was hired in May 2016 and worked as a patrol deputy. He worked as a Liberty County Sheriff's Office deputy from August 2015 until he joined JCSO.
Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts, State Attorney William Eddins of the 1st Judicial Circuit and Chris Williams, special agent in charge of the FDLE’s Pensacola office, discussed the case in an afternoon news conference. One of Wester’s alleged victims, Teresa Odom, wept as they discussed details of the case.
“I’m overwhelmed,” she said afterward, adding she was proud of one of the FDLE agents who worked with her during the investigation.
“There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,” Williams said in a news release. “I am proud of the hard work and dedication shown by our agents and analysts on this case to ensure justice is served.”
Inverstigators yet decline to give any information about Wester's motives.
Christina Pumphrey, a former assistant state attorney in Marianna who helped bring Wester's alleged misdeeds to light, said she was "incredibly surprised" to learn of his arrest because she didn't think he'd ever get charged.
"I'm glad he's off the road," she said. "I'm glad he's obviously facing charges. It doesn't change what the rest of the people went through because of him. It doesn't give them their time back. It doesn't give them their money back. It doesn't expunge their records — they still have at least arrest histories. But it's still something."
The racketeering charge against Wester carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison. The other felonies carry maximum sentences of five years. Under Florida’s sentencing guidelines, Wester could face 13 and a half years in prison if convicted on all charges, but together with that a judge can give him more time behind bars.