Thursday, September 27, 2018

Florida prosecutors drop 119 cases over planted evidence

Prosecutors in Florida  have dropped charges in 119 cases after finishing their review of arrests involving a former Jackson County deputy accused of planting drugs on motorists, reported the Tallahassee Democrat.
The charges involved everything from misdemeanor and criminal traffic offenses to felonies, including possession of methamphetamine and other controlled substances. All of the cases involved former Deputy Zachary Wester, who was fired Sept. 10 and remains under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"We have completed the work we know about," said State Attorney Glenn Hess. "If additional information is received, we will follow that up. I have not received the FDLE report so I cannot say for sure that we are finished."
On Tuesday alone, some 49 cases were dismissed after a proceeding before Jackson County Judge Wayne Mercer. The state began dismissing cases on Sept. 13 that either were initiated by Wester or heavily involved him.
Derek Blount, an assistant public defender, asked Mercer to set aside pleas and vacate sentences for the 40-some defendants, some of whom had more than one arrest involving Wester. After Mercer granted the motions in open court, Assistant State Attorney Laura Parish announced the state was dropping charges in all of the cases.
Mercer asked Blount whether there was any problem with his clients not being present in the courtroom, adding, “I can’t think of any prejudice.”
“Your honor,” Blount replied. “I’m waiving the presence of my clients being here. It’s to their benefit.”
“I think I agree totally,” Mercer said. “But (do) the clients even know about this?”
“No, sir, probably not,” Blount said. “Because some of these are closed and we’re unable to get in contact. Our addresses, phone numbers have changed from the intake sheet. Some of them plead first appearance and that’s the only contact we have for them.”
“I cannot imagine a situation where they would not want you to make this motion on their behalf,” Mercer said.
For seven solid minutes, Blount read all 49 names and case numbers into the record. Mercer said he’d sign orders in the set-aside pleas and vacated sentences after the hearing.
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