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Former deputy Zachary Wester sentenced to more than 12 years for planting drugs

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 9:01 PM CDT
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JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The former Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy convicted of planting drugs inside cars during traffic stops was sentenced to prison Tuesday. Judge James Goodman sentenced Zachary Wester to 12 years, 6 months, and 8 days in the Florida Department of Corrections.

The 28-year-old former deputy was arrested in 2019. He was accused of planting drugs in cars during traffic stops while working for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

In May, his case went to trial. He faced 67 charges including racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, and false imprisonment. He was found guilty of 19 of those charges and not guilty of 48.

At Tuesday’s sentencing, the court heard from five witnesses including one of Wester’s victims, Teresa Odom. “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 grand baby’s life because of this,” Odom said.

Wester in tears when his wife, Rebecca Wester, stood up and spoke. “But most importantly, his absence does not allow him to continue to take care and serve the most important thing in his life, me. Not only is he missing in our home but also the homes of our friends,” Mrs. Wester said.

The prosecution later gave his final arguments to the judge.

“The defendant made choices to violate that trust and commit crimes against the very citizens he had sworn to protect. That’s what he was convicted for. Violating that trust to commit crimes against them, to victimize them,” State Attorney Tom Williams said.

Only twelve were able to sit in on the hearing. However, Judge Goodman said he received more than fifty letters asking to come and support Wester.

The defense gave their closing argument, saying the defendant knows he’s going to prison but is asking for the smallest number of years.

“Judge, we’re asking you to consider also that he does have no prior record which is something that is very important in this case. That he has done good and he will continue to do good. And we’re asking the court to consider a sentence at the bottom of the guidelines of the 81.4 months in prison,” Defense Attorney Ryan Davis said.

Wester has spent the last 58 days in the Jackson County Jail since he was found guilty. Judge Goodman said those days will go toward his sentencing, and he will be transferred to a state prison to serve the rest of his time.

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