MARIANNA, Fla. – A former Jackson County, Florida deputy who was convicted of planting drugs on innocent people during traffic stops was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday.
According to prosecutors, 28-year-old Zachary Wester would pretend to smell drugs, then act like he legitimately found meth or marijuana in the victim’s vehicle.
Wester was convicted in May on 19 charges, including racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, perjury, false imprisonment, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
A jury found him guilty of planting evidence during three traffic stops and falsifying the arrest reports related to those stops. He was found not guilty on charges in nine other traffic stops.
One of Wester’s victims, Teresa Odom also spoke. She says Wester’s actions have had significant negative impacts on her life.
“Mr. Wester, you’ve robbed me of my credibility. Being a mother and a grandmother for the last three years, I’ve probably missed a year-and-a-half of my grandbaby’s life because of this,” Odom said.
Wester testified in his own defense during the trail and denies planting the drugs and falsifying reports.
Most of Wester’s victims had prior criminal records for offenses like drug possession, making them easy targets for the former deputy. In most circumstances, no one would believe their word over a police officer’s. Unfortunately for Wester, his own body camera is what did him in, as he can be seen on multiple videos planting drugs inside innocent victims cars and then arresting them.
With 58 days of jail credit, Wester will spend a total of 12 years, six months, and eight days locked up.