Day one of the criminal trial of former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputy Zachary Wester began near 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 10, with five witnesses called by the prosecution before the day’s lunch break.
Wester is charged with racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of methamphetamine, false imprisonment, perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, the charges primarily based around accusations that he planted fabricated evidence during some of the traffic stops he conducted while employed with JCSO.
Lead prosecutor Tom Williams, from the first judicial circuit, called retired Jackson County Sheriff’s Office investigator Virgil Watson, JCSO Captain Kevin Arnold, former JCSO IT network administrator Caleb Corvin, William Crisp, who had been Wester’s field training officer when Wester was hired by JCSO back in 2016, and Diana Chase, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent who was assigned to that agency’s investigation of Wester.
All those are subject to recall as the trial progresses. It’s expected to take a little more than two weeks.
Their testimony Monday morning was brief and foundational, most of it meant to establish that Wester had been trained in the proper handling of evidence and about JCSO policies, like those regarding the use of body camera.
The defense, on cross examination, laid the groundwork for challenging some matters, specifically focusing on how agency policy compared with how it chose to secure and process Wester’s patrol car after he was suspended.
Afternoon testimony was expected to come from at least one of the people arrested after a traffic stop by Wester while he was employed at JCSO. The prosecution alleges that there were 12 instances in which some of Wester’s actions constituted criminal acts.