Earlier this month, The Inquistr reported that Florida Sheriff’s Deputy Zach Wester was arrested for planting drugs in more than 100 people’s cars, which led to at least 10 arrests. He now faces 52 felony charges stemming from the arrests of 11 people, including false imprisonment, racketeering, fabricating evidence, possession of methamphetamine, perjury, and official misconduct.
Now, Reason reports that yet another Florida Sheriff’s Deputy, Steven O’Leary, has been arrested for falsely imprisoning people on fabricated drug charges. O’Leary is being charged with giving false statements, official misconduct, tampering with evidence, petit theft and battery, and false imprisonment, among other charges.
O’Leary allegedly made three drug arrests for substances that were not narcotics, although he claimed that field tests determined that they tested positive for drugs. According to a Regional Crime lab, one of the substances was a powder used to treat headaches and another was a material made of sand.
WPTV reports that state prosecutors are now examining 80 of O’Leary’s drug arrests over an 11-month period. In addition, 20 people plan to sue O’Leary and the sheriff for violating their civil rights.
“We will never be able to fully put every piece of this back together,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said. “But we’ll learn from what we did, we’ll move forward, and we’ll be a stronger sheriff’s office as a result.”
In one month, two Florida sheriff's deputies have been arrested for fabricating drug evidence during traffic stops. https://t.co/6yulPvGuA0
— reason (@reason) July 30, 2019
Although all of the people O’Leary arrested are reportedly getting the charges against them dropped, Wester’s case isn’t so simple. While some victims are suing Wester and will likely get some sort of vindication, many are still dealing with the rippling effects the charges have had on their life.
Per Tallahassee Democrat Tallahassee attorney Marie Mattox, who is representing victims in cases against Wester, suggests that the damages from the charges may be irreversible.
“The level of devastation in the lives of these folks is horrific. They’ve lost everything.”
“There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,” said Chris Williams, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE’s) assistant special agent in charge, per Reason.
But why did O’Leary and Wester do it?
“You’re never certain of the ways of the heart of man,” State Attorney William Eddins said of O’Leary’s case at a press conference back in January.
“We have some ideas and some theories, and we’ve talked about that a lot,” he added, before saying it wasn’t appropriate to go into them at the time.