JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)–Monday was day one of the jury trial for a high-profile case out of Jackson County. In July 2019, Zachary Wester, a former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy, was arrested on more than 60 charges. He’s accused of pulling people over, planting drugs on them, and then arresting them on fabricated charges.
Jurors gathered in a Jackson County courtroom Monday morning. They’ve been instructed the trial could last between 2-3 weeks.
“This is a case about the abuse of that incredible power,” said Thomas Williams, Assistant State Attorney for the 1st Judicial Circuit of Florida.
Wester is charged with more than 60 counts of racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of controlled substances, and false imprisonment.
“He used the power of his badge to commit over 60 crimes against 12 people in this community,” Williams said.
Wester is accused of pulling over those 12 individuals, planting drugs on them, and arresting them on fabricated charges. These allegations led to more than 100 cases being looked at to review his conduct.
His attorney, Ryan Davis, fired back, questioning their credibility.
“Seven. That’s how many of those 12 entered into some sort of agreement to resolve their case without challenging it in court. The other five were dropped,” said Ryan Davis.
The prosecution called nine witnesses including current and former members of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. They also called the case agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Jurors also heard from four witnesses who say they were victims of Wester’s actions.
In body camera footage from one of the arrests, Wester is seen asking Joshua Emanuel “You’ve never seen this before?” Emanuel responds “No, how far was that down there?”
Emanuel was pulled over by Wester on his way to work in Panama City for what he thought was an invalid license. Wester then claimed he found a syringe of meth in his car. Emanuel says he was left feeling defeated and confused.
“Shocked, I don’t do meth. I don’t know why it would be there,” Emanuel said.
Three other witnesses testified Monday with similar stories. Meanwhile, Wester’s attorney maintained his client’s innocence.
“Zero. Before Mr. Wester was suspended, that’s the number of complaints against him about these cases,” Davis said.
Davis confirmed that Wester will take the stand at some point during the trial. Court resumes Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. CT.