Fired Deputy Under Investigation For Planting Drugs

BY Herschel Smith
3 weeks, 4 days ago

From WiscoDave, this sad tale.

MARIANNA — Prosecutors are dropping charges in at least two dozen cases initiated by a former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy who’s under investigation for allegedly planting drugs on people during traffic stops.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Wednesday it opened an investigation Aug. 1 into Deputy Zachary Wester at the request of the Sheriff’s Office, located in Marianna. The investigation into allegations of official misconduct is still open, and no charges have been filed against Wester.

The Sheriff’s Office fired him Sept. 10 for violating agency policy, according to FDLE records.

State Attorney Glenn Hess of the 14th Judicial Circuit said FDLE briefed him and senior prosecutors about the Wester investigation several weeks ago. He formed his own opinion about Wester after seeing a body camera video of his arrest of a Cottondale woman earlier this year on charges of possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

“The investigation is not complete,” Hess said in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat. “However, I saw a video and I saw still photographs captured from that video that caused me to lose confidence in the cases that the deputy has made.”

Wester, 26, of Marianna, could not be reached for comment. Neither could his attorney, Steve Meadows of Panama City. Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts declined to comment and referred questions to FDLE.

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.

After learning of the investigation, Hess said he notified the defense bar in Jackson County. He said he did so to comport with pretrial discovery rules that require prosecutors to disclose information that may exonerate a defendant.

“It is an unfortunate situation,” Hess said. “However, as the state attorney, I have a responsibility to make it right.”

Hess sent letters to lawyers with clients in 15 cases involving Wester, he said. The Democrat obtained a copy of one of the letters, which was sent Sept. 6.

“Please be advised that our office has information that an investigation into the professional conduct of Deputy Zachary Wester is underway,” Hess wrote. “No conclusions have been reached, nonetheless, you should be aware of its existence.”

On Tuesday, prosecutors asked Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson in open court to vacate the sentence of Teresa Odom, the woman whose drug possession arrest was caught on body camera video. Patterson agreed.

According to court records, Odom was on pretrial release from an earlier stolen property charge when Wester arrested her on Feb. 15. The new arrest prompted a judge to revoke her bail, which kept her behind bars until resolution of the drug case. She pleaded no contest to the drug charges March 6 and was sentenced to four years of probation.

Hess said that after notifying defense attorneys of a potential problem with Wester, his office began reviewing dozens of cases involving the deputy that were opened since Jan. 1. He said he’s waiting for a final investigative report from FDLE.

“We felt like we had to do something pending receipt of that report,” he said. “When we get that report, we will read the report, and we’ll see if there are other things we need to do.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how many other defendants may be in jail or prison as a result of alleged misconduct by Wester.

“Basically, we’re dealing with possession of controlled substances,” Hess said. “So I would expect that the people affected would at worst be on probation. Nevertheless, we are looking at all of the cases and their outcomes.”

Prosecutors also dropped charges last week against Monica Willis, who was arrested by Wester on March 28 after a traffic stop. Wester’s arrest report says he found two silver colored spoons in her purse along with a baggie that field-tested positive for meth. She said she was two weeks pregnant at the time of the arrest, Wester noted.

She also was on probation for earlier charges in both Jackson and Calhoun counties, said her lawyer, Robin Myers of Bristol. He was able to arrange her release from jail Wednesday morning.

“The M.O. seems to be that there’s a traffic stop in which either a request to search the car is made or the deputy determines probable cause to search the car,” Myers said. “And then upon searching the car, narcotics are located. At which point the deputy gives the defendant the choice to either work as a confidential informant or go to jail.”

Myers contends the traffic stop itself was illegal. He said he isn’t sure whether Wester planted evidence in Willis’ case. But, he said, “That’s what appears to be happening in multiple cases.”

A former prosecutor himself, Myers said he believes law enforcement officers play by the rules, by and large.

The foundation for our system is the integrity of our law enforcement officers,” he said. “So I sure hope he’s just a (single) bad apple. And I believe that. The sad part is you wonder how many people were arrested by him and just took a plea to get out of jail when they had done nothing wrong.”

The foundations of social order have to do with the authority of the Scriptures, the adherence to Biblical law, and the moral constitution of men.  LEOs have nothing to do with it.

How many wrongful convictions and imprisonment can be accounted to this sort of abomination?  You know he isn’t the only one.  And how long with dull, stolid, slow-witted juries believe what LEOs tell them?


Comments

  1. On September 25, 2018 at 6:30 am, Mark Matis said:

    Well of course he’s just a one-off bad apple. No way the entire “Law Enforcement” Blue Wall in the US could be fraudulent, corrupt and treasonous. Just because the best estimate is that 25% to 50% of evidence and testimony presented in court by “Law Enforcement” is actually “testilying” is no reason to conclude that THERE ARE NO GOOD COPS.

  2. On September 25, 2018 at 7:20 am, Longbow said:

    So he is a “One bad apple…”, huh?

    How many of his buddies, you know, the “vast majority”, who would never do such a thing, knew about this guy, knew what he was doing, turned a blind eye and facilitated him?

    Yep. The Vast Majority strikes again.

  3. On September 25, 2018 at 8:22 am, Michael said:

    “And how long will dull, stolid, slow-witted juries believe what LEOs tell them?”

    So long as they keep believing that law enforcement officers are “heroes”. Simple as that (sad too).

  4. On September 25, 2018 at 6:53 pm, Mark Matis said:

    And of course, neither his Brothers in Blue in that pig sty, nor his spouse, knew what he was doing.

    They’re shocked, I tell you. SHOCKED!!!

  5. On September 26, 2018 at 11:27 am, 15Fixer said:

    After we re-form the country post CWII, no one who wants to be a Sheriff or a Deputy can be one. The community must sponser a (close as they can find to a) Paragon of Virtue to serve. Maybe a two-year post? NO ONE thet WANTS the job need apply. Powe corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  6. On September 27, 2018 at 2:12 pm, Gryphon said:

    Corrupt piggies? (Yawn).

    “The foundation for our system is the integrity of our law enforcement officers,”

    The Chief pig wasn’t referring to the “The foundations of social order…” , as the Captain suggested, he meant the legitimacy and authoritay of the .gov Corporation that employs him as a Thug Enforcer.

  7. On September 30, 2018 at 2:55 am, Dan said:

    And for every one of these corrupt badgemonkeys caught and punished there are countless others that get away with such misconduct routinely.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Police and was published September 24th, 2018 by Herschel Smith.

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