Zachary Wester trial day 2: Witness testimony continues
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Witness testimony continued on the second day of the trial for a former Jackson County deputy accused of planting drugs on people during a dozen minor traffic stops between 2016 and 2018.
Zachary Wester faces a total of 67 charges, ranging from official misconduct, racketeering, perjury and fabricating evidence. On the first day of the trial, nearly 12 witnesses took the stand, including current Jackson County Sheriff’s Office employees, the lead FDLE agent on Wester’s case and several people Wester arrested.
You can watch the trial live on the WCTV Facebook page or below.
The first witness on the stand Tuesday was another person Wester arrested: Trevor Day.
In body camera footage from another deputy shown in court, Wester told Day he’s going to jail for methamphetamine. Wester then asked Day if he had any idea where it came from.
“Have you ever seen baggies like he said he found?” Prosecutor Tom Williams asked Day.
“No sir,” Day responded.
Day confirmed in court he has a pending civil suit against the sheriff’s office. Defense attorney Ryan Davis says Wester’s conviction would help Day’s civil case.
When Prosecutor Williams asked Day why he has a civil case against the sheriff’s office, Day responded “because they ruined my life.”
The next witness called to the stand was Kimberly Wood, who was in the car with Day when they got pulled over. Wood says she was also arrested that night and entered the same plea and intervention deal as Day. Those charges have been dropped, and Wood also confirmed she has litigation pending against JCSO.
“Because we all need justice,” said Wood when asked to explain her reason for the civil suit.
JCSO Sgt. Jeffrey Tarter took the stand next. He was the backup deputy during Day’s arrest. Tarter testified that he did not search the vehicle with Wester.
While questioned by the defense, Tarter said he did not see Wester put anything in the car or do anything suspicious.
Following the first recess of the day, another man who Wester pulled over took the stand: Richard Driggers. He says it was because of a broken headlight. Once again, body camera footage of the stop was shown in court, and Wester asked Driggers if he could search his car because he smelled marijuana. Driggers agreed, saying there was a container with residue in the vehicle but he forgot about it.
Prosecutor Williams asked Driggers if he was ever back at his vehicle while Wester was searching it — he replied no.
During a search, Wester told Driggers he found a needle in the car. Driggers said it was not his, and he doesn’t smoke meth. Wester asked him if he ever has someone else in the car — which is a question he asked in almost every body camera video shown in court so far.
Driggers testified that he had used meth before, but says he has been clean for six to seven years. He asked Wester several times in the video if deputies can run fingerprints on the needle and the syringe, saying it wasn’t his.
Wester told Driggers he could send the items to an FDLE lab for backup testing, “but the success rate on that is less than 5%” in getting a credible print, Wester said in the body camera video.
The next witness on the stand was trooper Christopher Maloney, who used to work with JCSO and served as a backup deputy for Wester during Driggers’ stop and arrest.
The defense asked Maloney if he ever saw Wester carry anything into the car or saw anything unusual or suspicious, and he replied no.
Maloney was asked if he was with Wester when he allegedly found the illegal items, and Maloney again said no.
Another person Wester pulled over and arrested took the stand after Maloney.
“I felt like I had no choice,” Joshua Klenney said when asked why he entered a plea. “I was concerned that they would choose an officer’s word over mine any day of the week.”
Wester had pulled over Klenney for a seatbelt violation. Klenney says he was on the way to pick up his girlfriend at the hospital.
In the body camera video for this traffic stop, Wester said he can smell marijuana in the truck. He asked Klenney if he ever smokes in the vehicle, and Klenney replied his girlfriend may have. Wester then told Klenney he found a substance that tested positive for meth, and Klenney repeatedly said “there’s no way, I have no idea what that is,” and asked for a drug test and fingerprints to be run.
Defense attorney Davis asked Klenney if there are ever other people in the truck, which belongs to his father, and he testified they do a lot for work with the church, so several people are in and out of the vehicle.
The final witness who took the stand before the lunch break was deputy David Carlberg, the other deputy who responded to Klenney’s stop. He testified that there was nothing unusual or suspicious about Wester’s search of Klenney’s truck. When asked by the defense if meth is a problem in Jackson County, Carlberg said yes.
“That’s not uncommon,” Carlberg said about people denying whether drugs belong to them during a stop.
Williams asked Carlberg if he saw Wester find anything during the search. Carlberg replied no, testifying he was not by the vehicle during the search.
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