Breaking News

Florida deputy arrested for planting meth, other drugs in nearly 120 cases: what we know

CLOSE

An unknown item can be seen in Wester’s left hand around the 4:53 minute mark.
Tallahassee Democrat

MARIANNA, Fla. – Fired Jackson County Deputy Zach Wester was arrested on racketeering and numerous other charges for allegedly planting meth and other street drugs on unsuspecting motorists before hauling them off to jail.

Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who have been investigating Wester for more than nine months, arrested him Wednesday. Wester, expected to make his first court appearance on Thursday, invoked his right to remain silent and declined to speak with investigators.

He was arrested on 52 counts in all. Aside from the racketeering count, he was charged with a number of other felonies, including official misconduct, false imprisonment, fabricating evidence and possession of a controlled substance. He was also charged with misdemeanor charges of perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, FDLE said.

Post to Facebook

Posted!

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

  • Teresa Odom, who was arrested last year by former Jackson County deputy Zach Wester, attends a news conference Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Marianna, Fla. Her charges were dropped after allegations against Wester came to light. 1 of 14
  • State Attorney William Bill Eddins of the 1st Judicial Circuit speaks at a press conference in regards to the case against former Jackson County deputy Zach Wester. Wester was arrested Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by FDLE for racketeering and numerous charges. 2 of 14
  • State Attorney William Bill Eddins of the 1st Judicial Circuit speaks at a press conference in regards to the case against former Jackson County deputy Zach Wester. Wester was arrested Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by FDLE for racketeering and numerous charges. 3 of 14
  • Former Jackson County Deputy Zach Wester has been arrested on numerous charges in connection with an investigation into allegations he planted street drugs like meth on unsuspecting motorists.4 of 14
  • State Attorney William Bill Eddins of the 1st Judicial Circuit speaks at a press conference in regards to the case against former Jackson County deputy Zach Wester. Wester was arrested Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by FDLE for racketeering and numerous charges. 5 of 14
  • Teresa Odom reacts in shock as Deputy Zachary Wester says he found drugs in her truck during a traffic stop in Cottondale earlier this year.6 of 14
  • Zachary Wester as seen on a dashcam video.7 of 14
  • Some of those exonerated in the last week from charges related to fired Deputy Wester8 of 14
  • Members of the Middleton and Helms families pose for a photo. They were upbeat following news that the Jackson County deputy who arrested their loved ones was fired and under investigation for planting drugs on unsuspecting drivers. Pictured, from left, are April Middleton, her mom Maudry Middleton, Erika Helms and Grady Helms.9 of 14
  • Jackson County Sheriff's Office Deputy Zachary Wester as seen in a dash cam video.10 of 14
  • Chris Williams, assistant special agent in charge of FDLE's Pensacola office, speaks at a press conference about the arrest of former Jackson County deputy Zach Wester in connection with a drug planting investigation. Wester was arrested Wednesday, July 10, 2019 in Wakulla County. 11 of 14
  • State Attorney William Bill Eddins of the 1st Judicial Circuit speaks at a press conference in regards to the case against former Jackson County deputy Zach Wester. Wester was arrested Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by FDLE for racketeering and numerous charges. 12 of 14
  • Teresa Odom, who was arrested last year by former Jackson County deputy Zach Wester, sheds a tear at a news conference Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Marianna, Fla. Her charges were dropped after allegations against Wester came to light. 13 of 14
  • 14 of 14

Deputy under investigation after video of him punching black teen in the head goes viral

Deputies: Florida deputy dragged on interstate during traffic stop

‘His actions put innocent people in jail’

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.”

The investigation found Wester routinely pulled over citizens for alleged minor traffic infractions, planted drugs inside their vehicles and arrested them on fabricated charges. It also found that Wester misused his body camera, sometimes turning it off before drugs were located or turning it on just after they were found.

“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.”

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.”

‘Our investigation is ongoing’

The allegations prompted prosecutors in to review nearly 300 cases involving Wester. They ultimately dropped charges in nearly 120 cases. But Eddins said there’s no indication Wester planted drugs or fabricated arrests in all of those cases. He noted that the charges against Wester are based on his arrests of 11 different people.

“Our investigation is ongoing,” Eddins said. “There’s a substantial amount of work to be done. But I have no belief that there’s anywhere near 100 victims. We may have identified most of the victims, we may (have) not.”

Odom, pulled over last year by Wester in Cottondale, was among the victims listed in arrest documents. Wester’s own body camera footage appeared to show him with a baggie in his hand before he put on his gloves to begin searching her pickup truck. Hess told the Democrat last year that the footage caused him to lose confidence in the deputy. Odom’s charges were eventually tossed.

Another of his alleged victims, Benjamin Bowling, was arrested in 2017 on charges of possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, according to the arrest affidavit.

Wester claimed he smelled marijuana in the vehicle, though Bowling, a passenger, and the driver denied doing drugs. After Wester announced he’d found drugs in the car, Bowling swore he’d been clean since an earlier DUI arrest. At the time, he was being tested regularly after gaining custody of his daughter.

“Furthermore, Bowling voluntarily took a drug test after he was arrested and it was negative,” the arrest report says. “Bowling contacted the Sheriff’s Office and requested that the drugs were tested for DNA and fingerprints. Bowling also requested the body camera video but never received it. Bowling lost custody of his daughter because of the arrest.”

The racketeering charge against Wester carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison. The other felonies carry maximum sentences of five years. Eddins said that under Florida’s sentencing guidelines, Wester could face 13 and a half years in prison if convicted on all charges, though a judge could opt to give him more time behind bars.

Follow Jeff Burlew on Twitter: @JeffBurlew.

Post to Facebook

Posted!

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

A Bosnian woman, prays near graves of her relatives, at the memorial cemetery of Srebrenica 1995 massacre, in Potocari, near Eastern-Bosnian town of Srebrenica, on July 11, 2019. Bosnia will mark the 24th anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre on July 11, 2019 by burying 33 newly identified victims of the genocide in a collective funeral. Every year on July 11, newly identified victims of the massacre — which claimed the lives of over 8,000 people. Elvis Barukcic, AFP/Getty Images

  • A dog reacts on the board of a Stand-up paddler at a lake in Wunstorf, Germany, Thursday, July 11, 2019. 1 of 15
  • Harvey Weinstein leaves New York State Supreme Court with his new legal team following a pretrial hearing related to his upcoming trial on charges of rape and sexual assault in New York, July 11, 2019. Weinstein who is facing rape charges, is now being represented by a third legal team.  2 of 15
  • Hot air balloons fly over the city of Igualada during an early flight as part of the European Balloon Festival on July 11, 2019 in Igualada, Spain. The European Balloon Festival has become the most important hot air balloon event in Spain and one of the biggest in Europe. 3 of 15
  • A 'mozo', or runner, jumps over other one as they are chased by bulls of Victoriano del Rio ranch during the fifth 'encierro,' or running-with-the-bulls, of the Sanfermines festivities in Pamplona, Spain, July 11, 2019. 4 of 15
  • Patrulla Aguila army acrobatic patrol unit paints the sky with Spanish national flag's colors during handing in ceremony of the rank certificates to the new 99 Air Force's officers at the Spanish Air base in San Javier, southeastern Spain,  July 11, 2019. Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia chaired the ceremony. 5 of 15
  • A man wearing a Spiderman costume attends a screening of the movie 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' at the QFX Cinemas at Labim Mall in Lalitpur, Nepal, July 11, 2019. 6 of 15
  • People wade through a flooded street after a rainfall in Lahore, Pakistan, July 11, 2019. Heavy rain lashed the city causing rain-linked accidents. 7 of 15
  • Three Stand-up paddler and their dogs on the water at a lake in Wunstorf, Germany, Thursday, July 11, 2019. 8 of 15
  • Villagers travel on a boat through floodwaters over a submerged road in Balimukh village of Morigoan district in India's northeastern state of Assam, on July 11, 2019.  Floods have affected mores 350,000 people living across 13 districts as the annual monsoon rains continue to cross the Indian sub-continent. 9 of 15
  • A Bosnian woman, prays near graves of her relatives, at the memorial cemetery  of Srebrenica 1995 massacre, in Potocari, near Eastern-Bosnian town of Srebrenica, on July 11, 2019. Bosnia will mark the 24th anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre on July 11, 2019 by burying 33 newly identified victims of the genocide in a collective funeral. Every year on July 11, newly identified victims of the massacre -- which claimed the lives of over 8,000 people. 10 of 15
  • An Indian man rides a horse cart loaded with metal drums in Amritsar on July 11, 2019. 11 of 15
  • Bosnian Muslims pray by the caskets of 33 newly identified bodies of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre before their inhumation at the Potocari memorial cemetery near the Eastern-Bosnian town of Srebrenica on July 11, 2019. 12 of 15
  • Palestinian girls play during an activity at a summer camp organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City on July 11, 2019. 13 of 15
  • TOPSHOT - A man holds a South African slender-snouted crocodile that were born in June 2019, at the Biotropica Zoo in Val-de-Reuil, northern France on July 11, 2019. - The species is listed as critically endangered. (Photo by Lou BENOIST / AFP)LOU BENOIST/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: AFP_1IM0KL14 of 15
  • This is the aftermath of a storm in Nea Plagia, in Chalkidiki, Northern Greece, July 11, 2019. 15 of 15

Article source: http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/~/604336410/0/usatodaycomnation-topstories~Florida-deputy-arrested-for-planting-meth-other-drugs-in-nearly-cases-what-we-know/

Loading...

Best Wordpress Plugin development company in India     Best Web development company in India

Related posts

Search options for craft slight as underling aborts mission

Times of News

Suicidal man causes lockdown at New Mexico airport

Times of News

Tree bend derails Six Flags drum coaster

Times of News