Zachary Wester found guilty on 19 counts

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JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)–After nearly 8 hours of deliberating, a Jackson County jury has reached a verdict in the Zachary Wester trial. Wester was arrested back in July 2019 on 67 charges. He was accused of planting drugs on people during traffic stops and arresting them on fabricated charges.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the jury announced they have found Zachary Wester guilty on 19 of the 67 charges. Of the 12 alleged victims that testified, they only found him guilty on charges related to three of them. Wester was placed in cuffs after the verdict was read and booked into the Jackson County Jail.

“I am going to go ahead and adjudicate you guilty,” Judge James Goodman announced after hearing the verdict.

After hearing six days of testimony and deliberating for two days, a jury found Wester guilty on 19 counts.

He’s been convicted of racketeering, three counts of official misconduct, three counts of perjury, three counts of fabricating evidence, four counts of possession of a controlled substance, three counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, and two counts of false imprisonment.

“He used the power of his badge to commit over 60 crimes against 12 people in this community,” said Assistant State Attorney Thomas Williams during the early days of the trial.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into Wester in the summer of 2018. He was arrested the following summer.

“This is a case about the abuse of that incredible power,” Williams echoed in both his opening and closing statements.

Over the last week, the jury heard testimony from 12 of his alleged victims.

“No one was going to believe it, he’s a cop,” Richard Driggers said. While the jury did not convict him on charges related to Driggers, his testimony was similar to the others.

They also heard from members of law enforcement who investigated the allegations from the start.

“I wanted to see if I could get a better look at Deputy Westers left hand,” said Dyana Chase, the Case Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Zachary Wester himself also took the stand on day five of the trial and maintained his innocence.

“Did you plant that syringe in Mr. Emanuel’s car? I did not,” Wester told his attorney, Ryan Davis.

But after reviewing hours of body camera footage and testimony, the jury found Wester to be guilty as charged in the incidents related to Teresa Odom, Joshua Emanuel, and Steven Vann.

“Clearly what the jury did is they examined those and they found that the evidence proved that beyond a reasonable doubt for just those three and we respect that,” Williams said after hearing the verdict.

A status conference has been set for Monday, May 24th at 11:45 a.m. At that time, they’ll set a sentencing date.

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