Bond set for ex-Florida deputy accused of planting drugs on drivers

Zach Wester arrested on 33 felonies

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief

Dashcam image of Deputy Zachary Wester

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A fired Jackson County sheriff's deputy charged with planting drugs on unsuspecting drivers made a court appearance Thursday, where a judge set his bond.

On Thursday, Zach Wester found himself in the same position he put at least nine other people in, sitting in jail, facing a judge setting his bond. He was arrested on 33 felonies including official misconduct, fabricating evidence and false imprisonment. He's also facing 19 misdemeanors.

Wester's lawyers asked for a $51,000 bond. The judge more than tripled the defenses request, setting Wester's bond at $169,500. 

As part of any bail, Wester cannot have any contact with any of the potential victims. 

Wester's parents and wife watched the court hearing nearly in tears. His father is a law enforcement veteran with the same agency.

"He obviously denies the allegations," said attorney Tim Jansen, who is representing Wester. 

When asked how Wester could deny video evidence taken from his own body camera during a 2018 traffic stop, which appears to show Wester planting drugs in a woman's purse, Jansen said the legal team had not seen any of the evidence yet.

"We requested a high monetary bond in this case because of the nature of the offenses. It was a pattern of ongoing conduct, and it went to the heart of the nature of the criminal justice system," said prosecuting attorney Thomas Williams.

In Jackson County, 119 of the cases have been dismissed. At least 14 cases in Liberty county, where Wester first worked, are also being thrown out.

But like all of the victims in this case, their records are stained with an arrest.

"I can't say whether they were guilty or not because I no longer have confidence in the officer that was involved in that case," said Jack Campbell, a 2nd Judicial Circuit state attorney.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement logged more than 1,400 hours to make its case. Prosecutors said they are ready if the defense requests a speedy trial.

The FDLE has asked any other potential victims to come forward.

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