A Florida police officer has been arrested on suspicion of 52 counts of planting meth and other street drugs on motorists, and is facing a huge raft of both felony and misdemeanour charges.
The Internal Affairs division of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had been investigating Deputy Zach Wester for over nine months before his arrest. He’s being held without bail at the Wakulla County Jail and is expected to appear in court on Thursday on suspicion of numerous felonies including false imprisonment, fabricating evidence, and possession of a controlled substance.
Investigators believe Wester pulled citizens over for alleged minor traffic infractions before planting drugs in their vehicles and arresting them. He was also found to deliberately switch off his body camera so as not to incriminate himself.
Prosecutors reviewed some 300 cases involving Wester, dropping charges in 120 of them. The current raft of charges against the cop are based on his arrests of just 11 people. Under Florida law, Wester could face up to 13-and-a-half years in prison, though it is at the judge’s discretion should they opt to give him more time.
Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts reportedly described the allegations as “disheartening” and “a very serious matter.”
Investigators have assigned a team of 10 special agents and two crime analysts who have logged over 1,400 hours on the case so far. “There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,”State Attorney William Eddins said.
Christina Pumphrey, a former assistant state attorney in Marianna who helped bring Wester’s misconduct to light, said she’s “glad he’s obviously facing charges,” but noted that it doesn’t give the people he arrested their time or money back – and it doesn’t expunge their records.