Police Abuse

Former Florida Sheriff's Deputy Found Guilty of Planting Drugs on Motorists

Reason obtained body camera footage of the deputy falsely arresting a man in 2019.

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A former North Florida sheriff's deputy was convicted Tuesday of planting drugs on innocent motorists.

Following a week-long trial that included testimony from a dozen people who said they were framed, a jury found former Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Zachary Wester guilty of 19 of 67 criminal charges, including racketeering, false imprisonment, fabricating evidence, official misconduct, and drug possession.

The Tallahassee Democrat first reported in September 2018 that local prosecutors were dropping dozens of cases involving Wester after body cam footage appeared to show him planting a small baggie of meth in a woman's car during a traffic stop. The Democrat later published accounts by several other people who claimed they were framed by Wester during traffic stops. 

In January 2019, Reason obtained body camera footage of one of the dropped cases through a public records request. The video showed Wester appearing to find a small baggie with traces of white powder in it in the center console of Florida resident Steve Vann's car during a April 17, 2018, traffic stop.

"There ain't no way, man," a distraught Vann says in the video. "Oh my God, you gotta be fucking kidding me."

Wester tested the contents of the baggie using a Nark II field test, which is supposed to turn blue for a presumptive positive result for methamphetamines and MDMA. The solution instead turned burgundy, indicating a negative result.

Nevertheless, Wester told Vann that the test had come back presumptively positive for methamphetamines and placed him under arrest. Vann was subsequently charged with possession of methamphetamines and paraphernalia, but state prosecutors later dropped those charges as part of a review of more than 250 cases that Wester was involved with.

In July 2019, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Wester. In a 30-page affidavit, the FDLE alleged Wester kept unmarked bags of marijuana, methamphetamines, and drug paraphernalia in the trunk of his patrol car, manipulated his body cam footage, planted drugs in people's cars, and falsified arrest reports to railroad innocent people under the color of law. 

His victims, many of whom had prior records or were working to stay sober, had their lives upended. One man lost custody of his daughter.

All 12 of Wester's alleged victims testified at the trial, including Vann.

Vann testified that Wester originally said he pulled him over because his license plates came back with no insurance, but after Vann showed him proof of current insurance, Wester changed his story to say Vann had drifted over the double-yellow line.

Vann had gotten out of jail three weeks earlier, and he knew the routine. "Here we go again," he thought when Wester then said he smelled the odor of burnt marijuana in Vann's car.

"I knew my truck was clean," Vann testified. "I knew it was."

According to testimony in the trial, a forensics lab later tested the contents of the baggie Wester allegedly found in Vann's car, and it came back positive for methamphetamines.

Wester denied planting any of the drugs, claimed his body camera simply malfunctioned, and testified that the drugs found in the trunk of his squad car were discovered in a public restroom the day he was suspended, before he had a chance to properly inventory them.

The jury didn't buy it. Wester was convicted of charges related to three of the 12 traffic stops, including Vann's.

Eleven of those motorists have also filed civil lawsuits against Wester and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

Wester's defense attorney told the Tallahassee Democrat that he will appeal, specifically regarding Wester's racketeering conviction, the most serious offense he was found guilty of.

Before joining the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Wester was fired from his previous job at the Liberty County Sheriff's Office for inappropriate relations with women, the Democrat reported.

The prosecutor who first flagged some of Wester's suspicious cases later quit the state attorney's office and filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint against her former employer, saying she was "ostracized and ignored" after bringing Wester's misconduct to light.

In body camera footage played throughout the trial, Wester appeared upbeat, even jovial, as he went about his business. 

During one of his traffic stops, he told one of his victims, "You've got to be careful who you let in your vehicle."

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  1. Corrupt cop: tale as old as time.

    1. Yep! Yet another reason why cops are useless, crooked , worthless overpaid cowards.

      1. I say we start shunning those who support cops, since there is demonstrably no good cops.

        There’s no use for them whatsoever. It’s not like they do anything about burglaries. Citizens can do their own murder investigations.

        Let some detectives handle fraud and I think that should be it.

        1. 50 years in prison without possibility of parole. Abuse of government power is far more dangerous than individual criminal activity. Governments have murdered 100’s of millions throughout history, all in the name of “good”.

          1. This guy got caught. I wonder how many hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands or more get away with it due to the blue code of silence.

            1. police are people allowed to break the law with it being ignored by the Courts. What could go wrong?

          2. worse. police are NOT GOVERNMENT.

            100% un Constitutional.

            Odd, where there are more cops, theres always more crime and drugs.

            Read George Washingtons statement in the Constitutional documents about soldiers in the streets killling people.

            Its why the Revolutionary War happened

  2. The guy just enjoyed framing people? Strange.

    1. That’s the thing I’m wondering about: why take the risk? What did he get out of it? Just the rush of fucking people over?

      1. Why would he think there was any risk? He’s a cop. Cops do whatever they want. Who’s going to stop them? Everyone knows that cops lie on their reports and commit perjury. There’s a word for it: testalying. The prosecutor who initially flagged him was forced out of their job.

        And you can be certain that his buddies all knew what was going on. He probably bragged about framing people.

        If it wasn’t for some bad luck, this guy would still be doing what he was doing.

        1. Who’s going to stop them?

          Well, this guy was stopped by a body cam and oversight.

          So there’s something.

          1. The prosecutor who first flagged some of Wester’s suspicious cases later quit the state attorney’s office and filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint against her former employer, saying she was “ostracized and ignored” after bringing Wester’s misconduct to light.

            It appears the attorney general’s office wasn’t doing its job, given what this prosecutor found. I note a reluctance by government prosecutors, to actually police the police or other government officials. Every successful prosecution of a government employee shows the government failed to protect us from the corrupt in the government. To be fair, it also shows they did prosecute, but the pushback to investigate, and that he successfully setup so many shows they’re not policing the police.

            Prosecutors didn’t report a motive. I suggest he’s a sadist.

      2. Other cops in the department testified at trial that he really wanted to join the narcotics unit.

        1. I guess he wanted to ascend to the top of both worlds- narc kingpin and narcotics police supervisor. Then the world would be at his fingertips. Plus, cocaine is a helluva drug.

        2. I guess other cops realized something was wrong, finally. Not all cops are bad.

      3. Obviously he took pride in being a top performer, and despite just being assigned to patrol duty, getting dozens of felony collars.

    2. Three years to get to this, and the scum who enabled his actions remain in place.

    3. Coppers gotta cop

  3. And where will he be spending his summer, I assume in the Florida prison system? General population?

    1. In a special pig only prison and probably out in 90 days.

    2. The majority of the public is fucking retarded on criminal justice.

      We cant put a bullet in their head (because its immoral and or the state shouldnt kill people), but having ne’er-do-wells being tortured/raped by bigger meaner ne’er-do-wells is peachy keen?

      And people wonder why suspected criminals are willing to take their chances running from police.

      1. Criminal justice is Communism
        See Marxism and Criminality…

  4. The failure to supervise this now-convict should not go unpunished.

  5. My twin brother served 3 years on the Santa Barbara PD and then 30 years as a Security Forces commander in the USAF retiring as a colonel. During that time he had extensive contact with civilian police here, in Europe and in Asia. He repeatedly stated to me that fully one-third of all civilian police officers had no business being in any position of authority, let alone being armed. This guy was one of them.

    1. And the other 2/3rds just haven’t been caught yet. Fuck em

    2. “…let alone being armed…”

      That’s not the worst part. Having powers of arrest over other people is the scary part.

      1. 100% un Constitutional too!

        “De Militarize the police” is right.

    3. cops are people from the bottom of the pile living out soldier fantasies. cant get a real job? be a cop! sponge off the County!

      Look at the proportion of the County Budget that cops spend…

  6. I hear the FL state pen baseball team needs a new catcher.

    1. Is being segregated from the law abiding population the remedy or state sanctioned rape?

      The majority of the public is fucking retarded on criminal justice.

      We cant put a bullet in their head, but taxpayers are happy to fund cost of living for both violent rapists and their unlikable victims?

      Doesnt that make prison somewhat of a reward for physically superior rapists?

      1. yes, where they are housed and fed to hone their skills!

  7. The biblical punishment for anyone bearing false witness against another is for the liar to bear the punishment that was put upon the innocent one, or would have been put upon him had the lies been believed.

    That means this clown needs to do one day of prison time for every day he caused someone else to do, plus the rest of the shortened sentences of those released because his lies were discovered. He then must pay all the fines levied against any of his victims, as well as all court, t, lawyer, lost work, childcare, etc, costs,

    He needs to be diarmed for ilfe, likely to happen anyway once the days his victims were forced to be disarmed as a result of the felony busts he falsified.

    If he is not made a strong example, otherw sill continue to behave like he has. To wit: former officer Gounes of Houston tExas.. two people dead because HE lied.

    1. The Bible is the only thing worse than cops.

      1. How about the Communist Manifesto, the Writings of Chairman Mao, or Mein Kampf?

      2. did you just finish your shift at the abortion clinic?

    2. Too lenient. Execute him and put his head on a spike for a year in front of the police station as a lesson to the others.

      1. Only death deserves death. Let’s not sink to their level. 20 – 50 years in prison without possiblity of parole.

  8. Planting ownable goods on people? What next, disguising weapons for fingerprints and planting weapons on people?

    News that makes you wonder, anyways …

  9. Must be the guy who framed Andrew Gillum!

  10. This animal destroyed peoples lives, just for the fun of it, he needs to rot in prison for the rest of his miserable life.

  11. This is the same county where an undercover FBI agent investigating corruption in the Sheriff’s office was thrown in the back of the Deputy’s car because he did not have a business card – only a “tiny badge” and an FBI radio and gun.

    1. Not that the FBI deserves a lot of respect, these days.

  12. This guy is frightening. Far worse that Derek Chauvin.

  13. In Florida he couldn’t find someone doing something illegal so he had to resort to this? He needs a life sentence in jail. No tolerance.

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  16. This should be a death penalty offense. A cop violating the public trust like this should not be tolerated for a second. Public execution on the courthouse steps is all this turd deserves.

    1. I am sympathetic to this idea. Only a true piece of shit would do something like this to another human being. I rarely get pissed off when reading news stories, but this one hit me like a ton of bricks.

    2. Only death deserves death. Let’s not sink to their level. 20 – 50 years in prison without possiblity of parole.

  17. He is not the only acting law officer to put people in touch with the reality that you are going to be arrested at some point for something you did not do.

    All right — hypothetical reality.

    He isn’t necessarily any worse than actual law officers who arrested people when there was no evidence of an offense against person nor property aside from a baggie. And we do not know if his actions could be a window into who trained him.

    Of course, we have to respect those law officers who didn’t actually plant the substances and were doing their job at least legally. That’s really the only fair prospect in terms of arrest, that the arrest is not on baseless nor illegitimate grounds.

    As frightening as wrongful arrest may be, it happens. And numerous people since the advent of DNA forensic science have been released from prison because they were shown not to had been guilty due to the DNA of the crime matching someone else.

    So he really serves as a wake-up call. And ultimately, many an arrest will be at the officer’s own discretion.

    However, wrongful arrest can also be a way for a corrupt acting law officer to establish “useful contacts” for illigitimate purposes. Because if the person knows they are being set up, then they also know that their arrest may be negotiable or that the officer may be a psychopath and that their number could be up.

    So that’s a “no” vote for wrongful arrest, here.

    1. Take your Troll Meme and stuff it..

      We do not have to respect cops.

      They are Communust.
      WTF do you think you are to demand everyone respect you, cop?

      1. I mean if you set up the procedures that they should follow, then respect the procedures if they do follow them.

        Discrepancy duly noted, and thanks for bringing it to my attention

  18. There needs to be a separate branch of government charged with prosecuting officers of the government for their wrongful official actions whether legal or not. It should have the power to nullify wrongful laws and prosecute those who enforce or enact them.

    1. subversive comment. there Comrade? A government bureaucrap group that can circumvent the Legiskature and courts…

      A Dictator.

      1. It’s kinda like “1011” – ya call the cop cops on the cops. The cop cops – that is the “counter-government” or “government government” can arrest the cops or gov officials. It then forwards the complaint to a grand jury of those who subscribe to the counter-government. A person subscribes to only one – either the government or the “counter-government” and only votes in the elections of the one to which one subscribes, so power is divided. Anyone would be able to file a complaint withthe counter-gov against the gov. The counter-government only has jurisdiction over officers or officials of the government, not private citizens. The grand jury receives citizen complaints decides whether an initiation or threat of initiation of force has occurred. If they decde it has, then the government officials or officers are held over for trial by the counter-government.

        Also, any citizen would be able file a motion with the counter-government to nullify any government law. By a similar process, a counter-government grand jury or judicial body would determine if said law and its enforcement constitute a violation of individual rights. If it does, they issue a binding order of nullification of that law. Any attempt to enforce said nullified law would be prosecutable by the counter-government. The counter-government would support itself by fines, fees and assessments on the government. The larger the government got, the more revenue the counter-gov would have to control it. The counter-gov would have its own military and police, and be able to call up the militia.

        There has to be more effective ways to limit the power of the government.

    2. Ah, the age-old issue, who watches the watchers?

  19. Here’s an idea about punishment for cops who commit crimes against the people. Tattoo “COP” on his forehead and stick him in a really nasty cellblock. Food for thought.

  20. I refuse to call this male a man. Real men don’t do crap like this. Hell, I’d call his female former whistleblower prosecutor more of a man than he is.

  21. Exercise your 4th and 5th amendment rights! If you have nothing to hide, there’s NO REASON to allow cops to search your car!

  22. So, is there a specific case that shows that planting evidence is a violation of civil rights?

    And does that case involve a pretext stop in a motor vehicle?

    And were those drugs planted in the center console?

    And were they in a plastic baggie?

    And were they supposedly methamphetamines?

    Because if not… You are going to have a hard time pressing that lawsuit. Qualified immunity is a tough and oddly specific hurdle.

  23. …and drug possession.

    LOL

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