Jackson County, FL — Dozens of innocent people who were rotting in jail have been freed and their charges erased after the corrupt cop who put them there was caught on his own body camera planting meth on an innocent mother. as TFTP has reported, Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Zachary Wester has since been fired and a slew of lawsuits are now rolling in. And, this week, this most insidious police officer was arrested on 52 counts of planting meth and other street drugs on entirely innocent motorists he would randomly pull over.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who have been investigating Wester for more than nine months, arrested him in Crawfordville and took him to the Wakulla County Jail, where he is being held without bail. Wester, expected to make his first court appearance on Thursday, invoked his right to remain silent and declined to speak with investigators.
He was arrested on 52 counts in all. Aside from the racketeering count, he was charged with a number of other felonies, including official misconduct, false imprisonment, fabricating evidence and possession of a controlled substance. He was also charged with misdemeanor charges of perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, FDLE said.
“This is something we’re not proud of,” said Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts, who plans to retire and not seek re-election next year. “No agency wants to go through this kind of situation and face the embarrassment of the public. This is a very serious matter. We’re supposed to set higher standards, and the allegations that were made in this case will be tried.”
According to the report,
FDLE began its investigation last August at the request of the Sheriff's Office after whispers of misconduct by Wester began to surface around the courthouse. He was suspended Aug. 1 and fired a month later. During the internal investigation, deputies searching his patrol car found 42 pieces of drug paraphernalia, ten baggies of methamphetamine and five baggies of marijuana concealed in an unmarked and unsecured evidence bag in the trunk.
“The items located within Deputy Wester’s patrol car were not maintained as required of legitimate evidence, items for safe keeping or items for destruction,” the arrest affidavit says. “The multiple items located were consistent with, and similar in appearance to, items believed to have been used to fabricate evidence during (his) traffic stops and arrests.”
As TFTP reported, Wester's fall from law enforcement grace and the 119 people who were exonerated are due largely in part to the diligence of a single person, assistant state attorney at the 14th Judicial Circuit, Christina Pumphrey.
Pumphrey's job as assistant state attorney included reviewing evidence before moving forward with charges against individuals. When she began reviewing cases, she found something very peculiar.
“This is an exaggeration, but it felt like his (Wester's) name was on half the cases,” Pumphrey told The Appeal.“It was seriously disproportionate.”
When Pumphrey began watching the body camera footage from Wester's arrests, she found something even more disturbing. Many times, Wester was seen conducting illegal searches. Also, his written affidavits did not match what she watched in the videos. But that wasn't the most telling aspect of all these videos.
While it is no question that folks will claim that drugs found on them or in their possession "aren't their's" and "they don't know how that got there," nearly all of Wester's cases had this. The videos showed that people were utterly shocked when Wester claimed to have found drugs in their vehicles. While a single person may have been lying, when everyone reacts the exact same way, something is up.
Although she reviewed multiple videos, Pumphrey never saw the actual act of Wester planting drugs or otherwise hiding them. However, all that changed when Wester pulled over Teresa Odom in February of 2018.
In that video, Wester pulls Odom over, claiming her tail lights aren't working. However, it would later be revealed that her tail lights were, in fact, working fine and Wester had targeted her to frame her.
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In the video, Wester is extremely nice to the woman, complimenting her, joking around, and making small talk. But in the back of his mind, he knew the entire time that he was going to plant meth on her and have her thrown in a cage—an insidious move indeed.
After threatening to have a K-9 come search her car, Wester tells Odom that she can avoid the K-9 if she just lets him search her truck himself—a huge mistake.
As the body camera shows, Wester opens the door to Odom's truck and is cupping a small baggie with a white powder in it.
Wester would plant the substance under a red towel in her truck and then pretend to find it later. Odom would then be arrested and thrown in a cage so this officer could make himself look like a hero.
After Pumphrey began to raise red flags in her department pointing out videos like Odom's, she says the system began to go after her.
As The Appeal reports:
Internally, however, Pumphrey said the chief assistant state attorney, Larry Basford, chastised her for sharing the videos with the sheriff’s office. “He starts yelling over the phone. What was I doing looking through all the videos? Why in the world did I find the Teresa Odom video? Why was I looking for it? And just having an absolute fit.” Basford did not respond to comment on Pumphrey’s characterization of this conversation. Pumphrey turned in her resignation the following day. She filed a whistleblower complaint, but later dropped it because she said she didn’t want it to affect her ability to represent her clients at her new state job in public defense at the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel for the First DCA Region of Florida.
Apparently, it wasn't just Wester who had an interest in locking up innocent people.
“The state attorney’s office was just as bad and just as guilty as Zach Wester when we found this out and were not dropping these cases immediately, in my mind,” Pumphrey said. “When it was ignorance it was one thing, but as soon as we know there are innocent people sitting in jail and we don’t drop the charges, we’re as guilty as he is.”
Although Wester was fired after Pumphrey exposed him, it took investigators months to bring the charges against him.
Also, although these 119 people were vindicated, and a possible 30 more could be, they still face challenges from being framed.
“People still had consequences. It wasn’t like this was just all erased,” Pumphrey said. Dropped charges still remain on a person’s criminal record. And “even though the charges got dropped, there were people sitting in jail for six months on no bond because of this case. Or you’ve got people who have to spend money on supervision fees; they have to spend money paying for their own urine analysis test; they’ve done community service hours; they paid cost of bond — like $1,500. … You’re not getting back six months of your life. Or you’re not getting back the job that you lost because you sat in jail for a week before your girlfriend could get the bond money.”
The next time someone tells you that obeying the law will keep you out of trouble with police, show them this article. A single cop had over 100 victims. For now, however, it appears that the system may move to make a correction.