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Zachary Wester was hit with 67 charges, including racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, perjury, false imprisonment, and possession of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. He was ultimately convicted on 19 of those counts.
The 28-year-old former deputy was fired from the Jackson County Sheriff’s office in September 2018. An outside investigation was conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where agents reviewed over 1,300 minutes of body-camera video.
Right before Wester was suspended and fired, investigators came upon hidden drugs inside his patrol car in the summer of 2018. Prosecutors deemed the drugs to be what Wester was planting on unsuspected motorists, with body-camera footage apparently showing Wester palming drug baggies before searching the stopped vehicles.
Wester’s scheme was a two-year endeavor, taking place between 2016 and 2018, and forcing prosecutors to drop almost 120 cases he was involved in. Prosecutor Tom Williams called for Wester to serve a 15-year sentence, saying his actions were “an egregious breach of the public’s trust.”
“People voluntarily grant their government awesome powers they deem necessary for public safety and protection,” Williams added. “With that great power comes great responsibility. The defendant made choices to violate that trust and committed crimes against those people he was sworn to protect.”
Wester, however, denied planting the drugs and forging reports, according to WCTV. Over 50 people penned letters to the judge, showing their support for him. His wife, Rebecca, also spoke to the court.
“When that career ended, suddenly I watched a part of him and myself as well die,” Rebecca Wester said. “This blow is one that will not be overcome quickly, and honestly one we may never overcome. The Zach that is in the court before you today is a mighty man of God. Has been greatly missed, but the place he has been missed the most is in our home.”