Florida Panhandle deputy arrested for planting drugs on drivers

National

JACKSON, Fla. — A Jackson County, Florida deputy was fired and is now behind bars.

Twenty-six-year-old Zachary Wester was arrested Wednesday. The former sheriff’s deputy is now facing charges alleging he routinely pulled over drivers for minor traffic infractions, planted drugs, then arrested them on made-up drug charges.

In August of 2018, the Jackson County sheriff asked members of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to open an investigation into one of his deputies. Wester had been with the department since 2016, and was said to be planting drugs in cars, leading to a slew of false charges.

“We’re supposed to set the higher standard, and the allegations that were made in this case will be tried,” said Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts.

The evidence was caught on body camera and Wester was fired immediately. And after months of a deeper investigation, officials are sharing how much time he could face behind bars.

“There are 52 charges and they require if he were convicted of all charges… under our guidelines, approximately 13 1/2 years in prison,” said Bill Eddins, State Attorney 1st Judicial Circuit.

Investigators say this was an isolated incident.

Eddins said, “There is no other evidence that any other deputies or any other Jackson County personnel were involved with Mr. Wester.”

The case is now scheduled to go to trial. Additional charges could emerge but officials say it’s unlikely.

“FDLE spent over 1,400 hours on this case. So we believe that these charges are the majority of the charges that will be placed,” said Eddins.

Wester’s felony charges include racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment. He’s also facing several misdemeanor charges.

“There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,” said FDLE Pensacola Assistant Special Agent in Charge Chris Williams.

“I would like to thank the citizens of Jackson County for their patience during the investigation and my staff for continuing to serve our citizens during this difficult time,” said Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts.  “I also appreciate FDLE and the State Attorney’s Office for their commitment to this investigation.”

During the investigation, FDLE agents analyzed over 1,300 minutes of recorded video and logged over 1,400 working hours on the case. 

Wester was booked into the Wakulla County Jail and is being held without bond.  The Office of the State Attorney, First Judicial Circuit, will prosecute the case.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

Community Calendar