Former Florida deputy gets 12 years in prison for planting drugs during traffic stops
MARIANNA, Fla. (AP) – A former deputy in Florida received a 12-year prison sentence for planting drugs in drivers’ cars during traffic stops and then arresting them.
Former Jackson County Deputy Zachary Wester did not speak at Tuesday’s hearing, The Associated Press reports. He was convicted in May on 19 of 67 counts, including racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, perjury, false imprisonment, and possession of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia.
Investigators with Internal Affairs found the drugs hidden inside Wester’s patrol car in the summer of 2018, shortly before he was suspended. Prosecutors said it was ready-to-plant evidence that Wester used during his traffic stops.
Body camera video also showed the former deputy holding what appeared to be baggies filled with drugs before searching cars after stopping them.
Teresa Odom, one of Wester’s victims, told the judge the deputy had ruined her reputation and deprived her of time with her grandchild. Wester had stopped her for a defective brake light in 2018 and asked for permission to search her truck, according to AP. She agreed.
He claimed he found a baggie of methamphetamine in her purse — but body camera video showed him palming a bag before beginning his search.
Odom, who denied the drugs were hers when confronted by Wester, later pleaded no contest and received four years probation. That conviction has been thrown out.
Wester’s wife Rebecca and others begged Judge Goodman for leniency, saying he is a good, churchgoing man who volunteers in his community. More than 50 people sent letters to the judge in support of Wester.
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