Sunday, May 29, 2016

For Rick Wershe, Jr. the Wheels of Justice grind slowly, oh so slowly…

There have been two legal developments in the case of political prisoner Richard J. Wershe, Jr., who is serving a life prison term for helping the FBI prosecute drug corruption in Detroit’s political and police circles. His conviction reads possession of a controlled substance in excess of 650 grams. But his never-ending imprisonment without parole is actually about retribution from Detroit’s powerful black political establishment because he was a white informant who helped bring down people close to the late Mayor Coleman Young, a perennial survivor of numerous FBI investigations and a revered figure in some circles. One development last week is mostly cosmetic, the other is substantive but both are part of a l-o-n-g court struggle.

Rick Wershe, Jr. got a bit of good news last week when WDIV-TV Channel 4 in Detroit reported it had contacted nationally known attorney Alan Dershowitz to review the Wershe story. The station quotes Dershowitz as saying this case is a terrible, terrible injustice. Well, yes, as a matter of fact, it is.

Dershowitz has had some high profile clients over the years. Among them are Patty Hearst, Mike Tyson, televangelist Jim Bakker and socialite/murder suspect Claus von Bulow. Dershowitz also acted as an adviser on the O.J. Simpson defense team.

Attorney Alan Dershowitz (NBC Today Show)



Dershowitz thinks the continued imprisonment of Rick Wershe, 28 years after his first-offender conviction in a major but non-violent drug arrest, is outrageous. Dershowitz has offered his services to the Wershe legal team. It’s a nice gesture but frankly there isn’t much Dershowitz can do legally that isn’t already being done for Wershe. It's not known if Dershowitz is admitted to practice law in Michigan. Lawyers can't just show up in courtrooms around the country. There is a procedure they must follow to practice law in each state.

But the Dershowitz expression of outrage about Wershe’s imprisonment has celebrity value. Ours is a celebrity-adoring culture and the courts are no exception. The judges and lawyers may act like having Dershowitz walk in to a courtroom is no big deal but you can be sure the atmosphere will become electrified if Dershowitz shows up in a Michigan courtroom in the Wershe matter. The newspapers and TV stations will jostle each other in the search for impressive words and phrases about the New York lawyer’s appearance in behalf of a prison inmate. His photo is guaranteed to be on Page One.

This can help Wershe because it draws attention to his plight. 

The legal system has steadfastly refused to take a second look at the facts—or lack of them—in the legend of White Boy Rick, as Wershe has long been known. Informant America has painstakingly shown over the past year that the legend of White Boy Rick as a drug lord and drug kingpin is false and based on wild exaggerations by narcs eager to convince the public they had arrested a major figure in Detroit’s drug underworld.

But in the words of Roy Grisson, one of Wershe’s regular companions before his arrest, the notion of a white teenager ruling the underworld roost and giving Godfather-like orders to hardened black dope dealers twice his age doesn’t pass the common sense test. We’re talking about street-savvy, prison-hardened black dope dealers who order contract murders on occasion. Only a na├»ve fool or a gullible white suburbanite would believe that a white kid who couldn’t grow a decent moustache was somehow the boss of bosses of Detroit’s crack cocaine underworld. Yet that’s the line the Detroit Police and Wayne County’s Prosecutors have peddled with straight faces for decades.

Any regular reader of Informant America knows there are ample reasons to question the factual basis for Wershe’s continued imprisonment.  But “the system” doesn’t want to take a second look at the facts of the Wershe case. They only want to argue about applicable law. Maybe, just maybe, if Dershowitz and Wershe’s other lawyers can find a way get the judiciary to look at the facts, or lack of them, in the Wershe case, the pretense that he is a menace to society may finally collapse.

Meanwhile, Wershe’s long-time defense attorney, Ralph Musilli, filed another appeal late this past week with the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in yet another battle with a federal judge in Grand Rapids, who steadfastly refuses to consider Wershe’s argument that his Constitutional Rights have been violated by the Michigan Parole Board’s refusal to give meaningful consideration to parole for the state’s longest-serving drug inmate who was convicted as a juvenile. 

The Parole Board has released all the other prisoners convicted in non-violent drug cases as juveniles, but not Rick Wershe. The Parole Board has been “flopping” Wershe every five years by simply stating the board has “no interest” in considering him for parole. This, despite the fact that corrections officials in the prison where Wershe is incarcerated say he could qualify as a “model” prisoner if there were such a thing.

Ralph Musilli-Rick Wershe's defense attorney



Musilli’s latest appeal calls for oral arguments in the Wershe case; something U.S. District Court judge Gordon Quist in Grand Rapids has refused to even consider any of the fact issues in the Wershe case. The case is in a Grand Rapids federal court because Wershe is housed in a state prison on the western side of the state, within the jurisdiction of the federal courts in Grand Rapids.

If Musilli can persuade the federal court of appeals in Cincinnati that they should order oral arguments in the Wershe case that may finally present an opportunity to challenge the factual basis for Wershe’s continued incarceration. If Musilli gets what is known as discovery, watch out. A lot of self-righteous law-and-order people will be shown for what they really are. It won’t be pretty but the “system” may at last be forced to do the right thing for Rick Wershe.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Election year craziness: an opportunity for Rick Wershe?

It’s an election year, in case you haven’t noticed. That means candidates up and down the ballot must at least give the appearance of listening to the voters. Many people are interested in the trials and tribulations of prison lifer Richard J. Wershe, Jr., who got a raw deal by any rational measure. This blog, which reports almost exclusively on the Wershe case, has had over 92,000 page views. This translates in to some potential political clout. This week’s post is about organizations interested in reforming our messed up “corrections” system. Let’s hasten to add this isn’t a knock on the staff at the prisons. It’s a knock on the policies and top-level administration. It won’t change unless someone—you—are willing to step up and be heard.



Anyone who reads Informant America regularly, or even occasionally, knows Rick Wershe’s life sentence for a non-violent drug conviction when he was 18 years old is more about politics than it is about law and order.

He was recruited at age 14 to help the FBI in the War on Drugs. Without strong guidance Wershe made some bad decisions and wound up with a life prison sentence. Over the years it has become obvious there are forces who want to keep Wershe in prison no matter what the facts or anything he may have done to become a better citizen. As Rick Wershe has said numerous times, “I told on the wrong people.” They were people with political connections.

In a very real sense, it’s going to take some political will to set him free. Therefore, anyone who wants to do more than just wish him well should consider exercising a citizen’s right to show interest in politics. In this case, corrections reform in Michigan.

The Wershe case, taken by itself, will not move the needle in the statehouse in Lansing. But if enough people show the politicians his case is a shining (perhaps that’s not the right word) example of what is wrong with law and order and corrections “reform” in Michigan.

You don’t have to become a sign-waver at rallies, although that’s fine. There is nothing wrong, nothing at all, in asking questions and showing some interest in the making or reforming of laws. It’s called exercising your right as a citizen. Here are some places to ask questions:

CAPPS—Citizens Alliance on Prisons & Public Spending
This outfit is serious about the things that are wrong with Michigan’s Corrections system and they are state-based, not national.

You are invited to explore their Web site (www.capps-mi.org/) and decide for yourself. They even have sample letters of support if you’d like to help. 

Their phone number is:
(517) 482-7753. Their email address is:


LEAP—Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
This is an interesting national organization of current and former police officers who agree the War on Drugs hasn’t worked. They correctly liken the War on Drugs to Prohibition in the 1920s, with about the same degree of success. You may find it interesting to read some of their positions on their Web site (www.leap.cc/) Note that their domain name ends in “cc” not .com. 

Several former and current Michigan police officers are listed as participants under “Find A Speaker.” If you have enough people for an audience it may be worth everyone’s time to ask them to send a speaker.

Their email address is:

Right on Crime
This is a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation with chapters nationwide, including Michigan. It is, as the name suggests, a conservative policy organization which views current imprisonment policy as incredibly wasteful of tax dollars. They boast support from the likes of Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist. Their Web site (rightoncrime.com) offers insight in to their view of prison reform issues.

It’s not clear how active their Michigan operation is in 2016 but you can contact their Communications Director to find out. His name is Dan Isettat. His telephone number is: (512) 472-2700.

His email address is:

Rick’s lifelong friend, Dave Majkowski, who maintains the Free Richard Wershe Jr. Facebook page suggests you check out Can-Do: Justice through Clemency.  The Web Site (www.candoclemency.com) for this California-based organization is robust and shows some serious effort.

They have a form you can fill out to get in touch:

Of course, nothing says you can’t contact your Michigan representative or state senator yourself. They won’t bite. They won’t put you on a get-even list. Heck, they might even respond to a constituent. Stranger things have happened.












Sunday, May 15, 2016

An Imaginary Interview with Prosecutor Kym Worthy

Anyone who has followed the saga of prison lifer Richard J. Wershe, Jr. knows a Wayne County judge wanted to revise his sentence to time served under a new set of laws and rulings by the Michigan Supreme Court. But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has fought a reduction in Wershe’s sentence as if he were the Michigan equivalent of Charles Manson. She has waged a vigorous and costly battle through the Michigan Court of Appeals and now the Michigan Supreme Court where a decision is awaited. Through it all, she has decline to talk with reporters about the case. If I were able to interview Kym Worthy about her opposition to Rick Wershe, here are a few questions I would ask. Since she won’t explain her actions, this blog post will consist of some questions but no answers. It will be a short post.


Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy-She's like Inspector Javert in his obsessive pursuit of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (Al Goldis, AP photo)



Q: Ms. Worthy you have spent considerable taxpayer money fighting a sentence reduction for a man who has already served 28 years of a life sentence for a non-violent drug conviction committed when he was a teenager. Why are you fighting this fight?

Q: Ms. Worthy your office has admitted to me in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that the “records do not exist” to support past allegations by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office that Wershe was the leader of a major dope gang where associates were murdered and witnesses disappeared. On what basis do you contend Wershe should remain in prison while others similarly charged and convicted have been released?

Q: Ms. Worthy, there is nothing in the court records to indicate Mr. Wershe was ever charged with racketeering, operating a continuing criminal enterprise, narcotics conspiracy, narcotics co-conspiracy or any other “kingpin” or “drug lord” crime. Why are you fighting so hard to keep this man in prison?

Q: Ms. Worthy, can you cite another case, any case, where you have waged the kind of appellate court fight you are waging in the Wershe matter?

Q: If not, why is this case different?

Q: Ms. Worthy, how many times have you objected to the parole of a major crime inmate who was prosecuted by your office?

Q: You have complained very publicly in the past that you don’t have enough money in your budget, you called the reduction in the number of assistant prosecutors “tragic”, and you complained loudly about the effect on crime prosecutions. How much money has your office spent researching, writing legal briefs and fighting to keep Richard J. Wershe, Jr. in prison?

Q: In a case where a black federal agent shot and killed a black suspect, you exonerated the agent by saying, “facts matter.” Why won’t you insist on a full and open review of the “facts” that “matter” in the Wershe case?

Prosecutor Worthy announcing last year that "facts matter." Apparently she meant only in some cases but not in others. (WXYZ-TV image)



Q: Before he got in trouble, Rick Wershe, who is white, was a valued FBI informant against black drug crime and police corruption in Detroit. What role does race play in your strenuous fight to keep him locked up?

Q: Wershe infuriated the so-called Black Caucus of Detroit, the political powerful blacks of the city, when he helped the FBI prosecute the late Willie Volsan, former Mayor Coleman Young’s brother-in-law. Detroit’s black political power structure helped get you elected and has helped keep you in office. How much influence does the Black Caucus have over you in this battle against Wershe?

Q: Wershe also helped the FBI, several times, investigate former Detroit Police Homicide Inspector and later City Council President Gil Hill, now deceased. As you know, Hill was a target in an FBI undercover sting operation to expose drug payoffs in Detroit. And Hill’s successor in the Homicide Bureau has signed a sworn affidavit that Hill helped organize your office’s opposition to Wershe’s parole in a 2003 hearing. Have you conducted an internal investigation of what appears to be corrupt influence on your office?

Q: What was your personal relationship with Gil Hill and what influence has it had on your relentless pursuit of keeping Rick Wershe in prison for life?

***
Those are a few questions for the Wayne County Prosecutor. She won’t answer them, of course. She has to decline comment on matters before the court. In the interest of justice, don’tcha know…  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Rick Wershe’s Struggle Reflects the Nation’s Struggle with the War on Drugs

Rolling Stone magazine was out this past week with a story about the failed War on Drugs. The headline read, Why America Can’t Quit the Drug War. The article is noteworthy because the life prison sentence for Richard J. Wershe, Jr. remains in effect for many of the same reasons the nation can’t give up its failed drug “war.”

The subheading of the Rolling Stone article states, “After 45 years, more than $1 trillion wasted, and the creation of the world's largest prison system, America still lacks the political will to change its failed drug policy.”

That also partly explains why Rick Wershe is still behind bars, 28 years after he was sentenced to life in prison at age 18 for a non-violent drug offense.

Despite Barack Obama’s showy efforts to do something about mass incarceration tied to drug convictions, despite his talk about the need to treat drug addiction as a health problem and not a policing problem, his budget suggests otherwise.

As the magazine piece notes: “…the Drug War is costing taxpayers more than ever. Obama's 2017 drug budget seeks $31 billion, an increase of 25 percent from when he took office. This year, the federal government is spending more than $1,100 per person to combat the habit of America's 27 million illicit-drug users, and 22 million of them use marijuana.”

In the next paragraph, there is another nugget: “The blinkered drug-warrior culture in the ranks of the departments of Justice, State and Defense remains similarly entrenched.”

The same can be said of Rick Wershe’s “entrenched” reputation as a “drug lord” and “kingpin.” It’s not true, as this blog has proven many times. But his reputation is so “entrenched” that no one—not judges, not the media, not the Department of Corrections Parole Board, and certainly not any prosecutors—has the moral courage or backbone to say, ‘Wait a minute! There’s a chorus of people saying it isn’t true. In the interest of justice maybe we should make an effort to do a little open-minded investigating.'

You see, the interest of justice always, always, always takes a back seat to politics. NO ONE wants to appear “soft on crime.” Politicians and judges campaign on being “tough on crime.” This is funny because the system is forever releasing repeat offenders and psychopaths on parole, to rape, maim, rob and kill again. Yet they won’t order an honest and unbiased review of the case of Rick Wershe and others like him who are rotting year after year in costly prison cells—for nothing other than systemic inertia and fear of looking weak on crime.

But! But! But! It’s says here he was a major figure in Detroit’s drug underworld! Well, what is ‘says there’ is, to put it bluntly, bullshit. That has been demonstrated over and over each week during the past year by Informant America. This refusal to take a second look at the facts of the Wershe case represents either a violation of his civil rights against cruel and unusual punishment or a dereliction of duty—or both.

Here are the faces of the names of the primary “public servants” who are making a mockery of justice in the Wershe case:

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy-Justice seems to take a back seat to other considerations. (AP Photo)

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy tops the list. With every day that passes she shows “the interests of justice” don’t mean anything to her. She’s already admitted, in writing, her office doesn’t have any documentation to support the drug lord accusations against Wershe. Maybe it’s because freeing Wershe would be an embarrassment for her office after years of claiming he’s a menace to society when she knows that’s a lie. Maybe it’s because she’s loyal to the Detroit Black Coalition that put her in office and keeps her there. The black power clique despises Wershe because he helped the FBI prosecute corrupt Detroit cops and Mayor Young’s brother-in-law. Maybe it’s because he’s a white male and Worthy is a reverse-bias proponent of blacks-only “justice.” Or maybe it’s all of the above.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette-Provably false accusations against Rick Wershe in a federal court lawsuit ought to raise serious questions about the job he is doing in behalf of the People of Michigan. He's either responsible or irresponsible.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has fought a Wershe lawsuit in Grand Rapids federal court (it has jurisdiction because he’s in a prison on that side of the state) with provably false information. His case against Wershe is so riddled with errors he can’t even get the defendant right in citing Wershe’s crimes to the federal judge. He’s told the judge Wershe was convicted of a crime that is blatantly false. Voters have to wonder; if he’s this sloppy with a high profile case, what other atrocities against the notion of justice have happened under him? Schuette has dreams of being Michigan’s next governor and it’s a safe bet he intends to campaign on his tough-on-crime track record. Never mind that this 20-30-year old scare tactic hasn’t rid the state of crime. It still occurs even though 20% of Michigan’s tax dollars go to maintaining the “corrections” system.

Judge Gordon Quist, U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan-his abuse of judicial discretion in the Rick Wershe case could be a case study in law schools.

U.S. District Court judge Gordon Quist of Grand Rapids has abused his judicial discretion in the Wershe case and makes a mockery of the notion that federal court is the court of last resort for those seeking justice. Quist was irritated with Wershe's civil rights lawsuit from the get-go. He never took the time to hold a hearing. He never allowed Wershe's attorney to have "discovery" so he could amass factual evidence to prove his case. Quist threw the case out as "frivolous" and wanted to impose financial penalties on Ralph Musilli, Wershe's attorney, for even filing the lawsuit. Musilli appealed and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Quist should take a closer look. After months of ignoring the higher court's rebuke, Quist had a lower-level federal magistrate engage in legal acrobatics to "find" that he should not give this case any serious attention. Abuse of power by federal judges is a seldom-explored flaw in the criminal justice system. Injustices are inflicted in federal courts every day and Gordon Quist stands as an example of that.  


Michigan Governor Rick Snyder-he has the power to correct injustices and inequities in Michigan's Corrections system but he consistently fails to act, just as he failed to act in the Flint water crisis until it became a national scandal. (Photo-Carlos Osorio, AP)

 Governor Rick Snyder has the power to pardon prisoners or commute sentences but he consistently turns his back on prison/prisoner matters. Clearly he doesn’t care about the issue or the people. Perhaps he’s too busy trying to persuade the government of China to buy controlling equity stakes in Michigan’s key economic sectors. Snyder has washed his hands of responsibility in pardon and commutation cases. For his sake, the voters can hope he didn’t wash his hands with water from Flint. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rick Wershe’s civil rights: Who will investigate the system?


The Michigan criminal justice system takes a back seat to no state when it comes to injustice and unequal punishment. Paroles from Michigan's prisons are capricious and arbitrary and no one is held accountable. The results are not only unfair, they are occasionally deadly. 


One of the fundamental tools of investigative reporting is known as compare and contrast. When you find that something isn’t right in the way some unit of government is operating you compare it to other units of local government or government operations in another state and you contrast it with how the fishy local department or agency is doing business.

The Detroit newspapers carried a story this past week about the search for a Michigan parolee suspected of suffocating his girlfriend in Pontiac and then stuffing her body in a closet. The woman's mother found her body.

Kevin Wiley-Parolee wanted for Murder (Michigan Dept. of Corrections Photo)

Kevin Jermaine Wiley, 34, is wanted for murder in the death of 30-year old Marie Elizabeth Colburn. Investigators say Wiley had been wearing a tether as a condition of his parole but he apparently cut the tether off his ankle somewhere in Detroit.

Wiley was on parole for a 2004 homicide/manslaughter conviction in Wayne County and a home invasion conviction in 2012. Now he’s on the run, wanted for murder.

There is no indication that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office objected to Wiley’s release on parole. The fact is, since Rick Wershe was sent to prison in 1988 thousands of inmates have been released on parole, including murderers, rapists and child molesters. It would be interesting to know how many parole cases there have been where the Wayne County prosecutor has objected to the inmate’s release on parole.

Now let’s compare and contrast this to the actions of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in the case of Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—in prison for 28 years as part of a life term for a non-violent drug conviction from an arrest when he was 17-years old.

Kym Worthy has fought all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court to keep Wershe in prison, apparently until he dies.

Wayne County Circuit Court judge Dana Hathaway, noting changes in the laws, indicated late last summer she intended to re-sentence Rick Wershe under the revised laws. Under the sentencing guidelines his new sentence would amount to time served and Wershe would be out from under the living death of a life sentence. 

The Wayne County Prosecutor threw a legal fit and said Wershe was sentenced to life in prison under a law that was valid at the time, and therefore he should remain in prison for life.

Ms. Worthy fought the Wershe re-sentencing to the Michigan Court of Appeals. That fight was led by assistant prosecutor Timothy Baughman, known as an appellate court wizard, who just barely escaped prosecution some years ago for advising and counseling another assistant prosecutor on how to get away with using perjured testimony—a felony—in another drug case. The other assistant prosecutor was prosecuted. Mr. Baughman skated. Mr. Baughman is something of an appellate rock star in Michigan legal circles and U.S. legal history shows stars of any kind are seldom prosecuted and almost never convicted.

The Michigan Court of Appeals, not wanting to appear soft on crime in the case of a “drug lord” and “kingpin”, reversed Judge Hathaway regarding the Wershe case on a technicality.

Wershe’s defense took the fight to the Michigan Supreme Court where Kym Worthy has wasted more staff time, which is another way of saying she has wasted taxpayer money, fighting the re-sentencing yet again. The case is now before the Michigan Supreme Court awaiting a decision. That court has sent the better part of a hundred cases back to the lower courts for the trial judge’s sentence evaluation under a case known as People v. Lockridge. The Wershe case fits precisely the guidelines the Michigan Supreme Court is using in the “Lockridge” cases that are being sent back to the trial courts for reconsideration. Eventually they will make a decision in the Wershe case. Under Lockridge, Wershe should be eligible to be re-sentenced by Judge Hathway. If the Supreme Court rules otherwise, something is fishy.

It’s not just Kym Worthy who is fighting Rick Wershe’s parole. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, an ambitious politician with dreams of becoming the state’s next governor, has fought against Wershe in a federal lawsuit claiming his civil rights have been violated for the Michigan Parole Board’s repeated refusal to fairly consider him for parole.

Bill Schuette-Michigan Attorney General

Schuette’s legal brief opposing Wershe’s federal lawsuit is an embarrassment, or ought to be. It cites a federal case involving suppressors, commonly known to the public as silencers. Schuette’s legal brief in opposition to the federal civil rights suit says Rick Wershe was convicted of possessing silencers. 

Trouble is, Schuette has the wrong Wershe. That case involved Richard Wershe SENIOR, the father of Richard Wershe JUNIOR. The late senior Wershe was a licensed gun dealer but he ran afoul of the law for having a batch of unregistered suppressors. Owning or possessing a suppressor is not illegal—as long as you acquire the proper permit and pay the appropriate federal fee. Suppressors are openly available for purchase online to firearms enthusiasts.

Schuette’s argument against Rick Wershe Jr. also relies on a 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board purportedly written by then-Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan, who is now the mayor of Detroit. That letter makes wild claims about Rick Wershe being a leader of a murderous gang, a drug lord and basically a criminal of the worst order who deserves to remain in jail until he dies.

Regular readers of this blog may recall a post last September in which I revealed the results of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Wayne County Prosecutor for copies of all records and reports supporting the allegations in the Duggan letter. The formal reply from Kym Worthy’s office stated, “the records do not exist.”

Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor (Al Goldis-AP Photo)


Deadline Detroit an online news site, posted a piece this past week citing a documentary about Rick Wershe that is in production, in which Johnnie or Johnny Curry says in an on-camera interview that Rick Wershe was never a major drug dealer. Curry, who truly was one of Detroit’s major dope slingers of the 1980s uses a 1-to-10 scale to compare himself to Rick Wershe. Curry says if he were a 10 Wershe was a 2 and says “they” made Wershe way bigger than he was.

Deadline Detroit’s Allan Lengal writes, “Kym Worthy has created something in her head -- likely fueled by false information from those in law enforcement who resented Wershe helping the FBI bust cops -- that Wershe was a kingpin then and remains a monster today, 28 years after he was taken off the streets as a teenager.” The headline of the article suggests Worthy may wind up looking foolish. That is putting it mildly.

At this point it is appropriate to explain the highlights of the Rick Wershe, Jr. story.

Wershe was recruited at age 14 by the FBI to become a paid informant against the Curry gang because they lived in the same neighborhood and the Currys trusted Wershe as Ricky from the ‘hood. Wershe did a good job as an informant and also told the FBI about drug corruption among powerful, politically-connected Detroit cops.

When a federal drug task force got what it needed from Wershe, they dropped him at about age 16 to fend for himself. By now he was a school dropout from a dysfunctional family. He turned to the trade the narcs taught him. He tried to become a dope wholesaler and got caught and sent to prison for life. There are strong reasons to believe his informing on corrupt cops and then-Mayor Coleman Young’s brother-in-law, the late Willie Volsan, earned him powerful enemies for life. 

There appears to be a vendetta to keep Wershe in prison at all costs and that vendetta is being aided and abetted by Prosecutor Worthy, Attorney General Schuette and others we don’t know about who wield a lot of political clout. As Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s appeals attorney has said on several occasions, Rick Wershe told on the wrong people; corrupt members of the political system who have real power.

Wershe has never been convicted of any violent crime.  He’s never been named in any other drug case as a defendant or co-conspirator. His name has never come up in any other drug case. Those are odd facts about a so-called drug lord.

His prison behavior record is exemplary. One of the administrators at the Oaks Correctional Facility where he is serving his time told me Wershe is close to what people would call a “model” prisoner.

Yet the Michigan Parole Board refuses to grant him a parole. The Wayne County Prosecutor is obviously willing to spend countless taxpayer dollars battling in the courts to keep him in prison. Ditto for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's waste of state tax dollars. Schuette is still fighting in federal court in Grand Rapids to keep Wershe locked up.

The outrage in all this is the fact prosecutors and attorneys general can get away with ruining someone’s life with impunity. They face no consequences when they engage in outrageous, vindictive prosecution based on perjured testimony and falsified police records. They face no consequences.


Oh, sure, some inmate may get lucky and get a judge to allow him or her to sue for violation of their Constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment. Even so, if that defendant wins a monetary judgment, it is the taxpayer who will foot the bill for blatant violation of the law by the people charged with upholding it. Prosecutors enjoy limitless immunity when they break the law, in Michigan and in every state. 

That won’t change unless the people demand it. If, by some chance, the voters demanded that prosecutors and cops have some personal liability for false and malicious prosecution and outrageous abuse of the criminal justice system you can be sure they would scream bloody murder as a group. They would holler that holding them personally accountable for damages would put a chill, A CHILL! on law and order. Funny, but it seems the chill is already there. Just ask Rick Wershe.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rick Wershe, Kym Worthy and Justice for All

Two former Detroit police officers were charged last week with misconduct in office and falsifying police reports in a case where the evidence showed they planted a bag of heroin in a man’s car in order to arrest him on drug possession charges. The last four Informant America blog posts have described, in detail, the unanswered questions, considerable holes—and police perjury—in the prosecution’s drug case against Richard Wershe, Jr. Which leaves a question: Why is Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy afraid of a public review of whether Rick Wershe was/is a menace to society?

Former Detroit police officers Steven Fultz, 34, and John McKee, 43, claimed they watched a 27-year old Detroit man toss a bag of suspected heroin from his car in a Detroit neighborhood in January, 2015. They arrested the man and charged him with possession of heroin.


Former Detroit Police Officers John McKee and Steven Fultz (Detroit Police photos)



Their story fell apart when the case was going to trial. Audio tapes from their police car revealed the officers planned to file a false report about the incident to justify the man’s arrest. Now they are the ones who are facing prison time.

It appears Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy did the right thing in this case. So why won’t she do the right thing in the Rick Wershe case? The one that sent him to prison for life?

If Kym Worthy cares to look she will find that the arresting officer in Wershe’s case, Rodney Grandison committed perjury—lied—under oath at the trial when he said he didn’t know Rick Wershe and had never met him before arresting him.

Wershe says he knew Officer Grandison well enough to smoke pot with him from time to time before the big bust.

Now it might be Wershe’s word against one of Detroit’s, uh, finest, a police officer sworn to uphold the law. Except for one thing.

Former Detroit FBI agent Herman Groman, Wershe’s “handler” when he was working as a confidential informant for a federal drug task force, paid a visit to Wershe when he was in Marquette State Prison. Groman arranged with prison officials to have Wershe call Grandison at home from a prison phone, which Groman wired up to record the conversation.

Wershe called Grandison and they chit-chatted about a minor matter for maybe ten minutes or so, long enough to clearly establish that Grandison knew Wershe. Grandison didn’t acted surprised or shocked that Wershe was on the other end of the line. There was no indication he didn’t know Wershe. On the contrary. He jumped right in to the conversation. What they talked about isn’t important. The key to it is the tape recorded phone call establishes clearly and beyond doubt that Grandison committed a felony—perjury—when he told the Wershe jury that he did not know the defendant.

Recent Informant America blog posts have noted the civilian witnesses in Wershe’s trial contradicted one another in their testimony. One said she was Wershe walking between some houses toward her with a box in his arms. Another, who was sitting on his front porch next door to the female witness said Wershe did NOT have a box in his arms. This testimony was supposed to tie Wershe to a box of cocaine retrieved about two hours after his arrest.

And there’s the strange unexplained story of the box itself. It was found under a porch by neighbors who swore it was taped shut when they found it.

Officer Greg Woods, a Detroit narc on the self-styled No Crack Crew, showed up about two hours after Wershe’s arrest to take custody of the box. Woods testified when he received it, it the box was open and there were eight kilos of cocaine inside. Rick Wershe says today he never saw or touched the box but that he was supposed to receive a ten-kilo shipment of cocaine that day from Miami. Wershe’s fingerprints and palm prints were not found on the box.

Let’s review: We have tape-recorded evidence one of the prosecution’s police witnesses in Wershe’s drug trial perjured himself on the witness stand. We have conflicting eyewitness testimony. We have what appears to be tainted drug evidence with no physical evidence tying it to Wershe.

A man is serving a life prison sentence on a case at least as flimsy as the one Kym Worthy tossed and saw fit to file charges against the police officers who fabricated the case.
The statute of limitations is long past on charging Grandison for perjury in the Wershe case.


Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor (Detroit Free Press photo)



But if, IF, Kym Worthy were truly interested in justice in all cases and not just some cases, she would order a thorough review of Wershe’s case and all the wild accusations that he was a white teen drug lord and drug kingpin who ruled the roost over street-hardened adult black men in Detroit. That’s if she were interested in justice for all. Don’t hold your breath. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rick Wershe is serving life for a shaky and shady drug conviction - Pt. 4


Several past Informant America blog posts have suggested the case that sent Richard J. Wershe, Jr. to prison for life was questionable at best. He was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver over 650 grams of cocaine. The police case had gaping holes in it which were helped by Wershe’s own defense team, two lawyers loyal to Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and believed to be intent on ensuring Wershe went to prison for a long, long time. It is enlightening—and disturbing—to take a hard look at the evidence—or lack of it—behind Rick Wershe’s life prison term.

PART FOUR—CONCLUSION OF THIS SERIES

The previous three blog posts on Informant America have recounted the discrepancies and police misconduct that surrounded Richard J. Wershe Jr.’s arrest on a drug charge that has kept him in prison for 28 years—all of his adult life.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr. in court, September, 2015 (David Coates, Detroit News via AP)


Here, one more time, is a recap of Wershe’s arrest the night of May 22, 1987:

  • Rick Wershe and a pal are stopped by the police on a pretext traffic stop near his home.
  • Wershe had a shopping bag of cash but no drugs. His sister grabs the bag before the police can and she runs into her house with the cash.
  • A curious crowd spills into the street along with dozens of cops.
  • Rick Wershe walks away empty-handed.
  • A teenage neighbor claims she saw Wershe walking between houses toward her house carrying a large box.
  • The neighbor claims Wershe asked her to put the box behind her house. She said no.
  • A second neighbor, an adult male who lives next door to the teen witness, said he saw Wershe at the same time as the teen, but he testified Wershe wasn’t carrying a box.
  • Wershe is found by the police and taken in to custody. As the police walk him back to the scene of the traffic stop Officer Rodney Grandison suddenly pistol whips Wershe, shattering his eye socket. He is thrown to the ground, then Grandison and another officer handcuff him and lift him by a gold chain around his neck. Next they throw him by the neck and chain, while handcuffed, over a fence gate. Other officers arrive and beat and stomp Wershe while he’s on the ground. The beating was so severe Wershe was taken to a hospital instead of jail that night.
  • Afterward the neighbors search the back yard for a box and they find one under a porch. The box is taken in to the teen girl’s house. A neighbor/witness said the box was taped shut.
  • About two hours later, acting on a mysterious “anonymous phone tip”, the police arrive and take the box. The officer who took possession of the box says it was partially open when he took control of the box.


When the case came up for preliminary exam—a procedure where a judge listens to enough testimony and considers enough evidence to decide whether the case should go to a jury—one of the first things Bill Bufalino, Wershe’s defense attorney, did was file a motion to suppress the evidence, the evidence being the box containing eight kilos of cocaine. This is something any good defense attorney would do, especially in a case like this.

In a previous blog post Rick Wershe said he did receive a cocaine shipment that day but he never saw it or touched it. His friends had it. Wershe said the shipment contained ten kilos of cocaine, not eight. Yet when the police took custody of the box that night, it had been opened by someone and they reported only eight kilos were inside. The neighbors said when they retrieved the box it was taped shut. Either the neighbor-witnesses are lying and one of them stole two kilos of cocaine, or the police opened the box, helped themselves to two kilos of cocaine, and turned in as evidence a box with eight kilos.

The prosecution didn't exactly have a slam-dunk case. A conviction was less than assured. But Rick Wershe made a fateful mistake between the preliminary exam and his trial several months later.

He listened to the advice of Cathy Volsan Curry, the niece of Detroit mayor Coleman Young. Wershe had been sleeping with Cathy Volsan Curry whose husband was in prison for a drug conviction brought about as a result of Wershe’s undercover work as an FBI informant. Wershe says she initiated the affair.

Cathy Volsan Curry (FBI Surveillance photo)


After his arrest, Wershe says Ms. Volsan Curry urged him to replace Bufalino as his defense attorney with a black defense team; attorneys Ed Bell and Sam Gardner. She told Wershe her “family” said it would be the smart thing to do.

Bell and Gardner were former county judges with plenty of experience with criminal legal procedure, both were major figures in Black politics in Detroit and both were closely allied with Coleman Young. Mayor Young, now deceased, was almost certainly embarrassed to have the husband of his favorite niece doing time in prison for being a cocaine kingpin in his city. Mayor Young was almost certainly embarrassed in equal measure to have his favorite niece sleeping with a young white guy charged with possessing a large quantity of cocaine.

What we don’t know is exactly when Coleman Young found out Richard Wershe, Jr. was a paid FBI confidential informant, a “stool pigeon” in the mayor’s vocabulary. That, most assuredly, would put hizzoner over the edge. The FBI had been trying to make a criminal case against Coleman Young dating back to the Red Scare Days of the early 50s when Young was suspected of being a Communist sympathizer. The animosity between Coleman Young and the FBI was mutual. As one FBI agent put it, “We considered him a target and he considered us the enemy.”

Rick Wershe listened to Cathy Volsan Curry and hired Bell and Gardner to take charge of his defense. Bufalino was still on the team but he was now playing second string to the two black attorneys.

The late William Bufalino II


Bufalino believed the mysterious box of cocaine was evidence that could be successfully challenged in court. “’Well if Rick had a box that was taped shut, this couldn’t be the same box,’” Wershe remembers Bufalino saying. Bufalino knew the police and the prosecutor didn’t have a good answer for that. And therein was hope for an acquittal or a strong issue for appeal.

Greg Woods, the police narc who took custody of the box from the neighbors some two hours after Wershe was arrested, testified the box was definitely open when he took custody of it.

Clearly, the box of cocaine was a matter of dispute, which is something any defense attorney would consider ammunition for acquittal or appeal.

The late Ed Bell


Yet, the first thing Bell did when he took over Wershe’s defense was to withdraw Bufalino’s motion to suppress the evidence in the case.

"I remember him (Bufalino) and Bell got in to a big thing about that,” Wershe told me in a recent phone interview from prison. "Bill didn’t understand why he (Bell) withdrew the motion to suppress. Bill explained it to me like, ‘Rick, why withdraw a motion that can’t hurt us no matter what? If we win, they have no evidence, (if not) we’re right in the same place that we are.’"

Q: What was Bell’s argument?
A: “That he had things going on behind the scenes. 'Don’t worry about nothin’. He told both of us that.”

Bell had things going on behind the scenes, alright. But it wasn’t with the trial judge. More likely it was a get-even scheme cooked up with Coleman Young to get rid of Wershe, the FBI informant, forever, without resorting to murder. Both men knew Wershe was facing mandatory life in prison without parole.

"That’s when Bill told me, he said, ‘Rick, I think he sold you out,'" Wershe recalls Bufalino telling him. "'There’s no rational reason to pull this motion. None. If we win, we party. If we lose we’re right in the same situation.’ He said, ‘So tell me, why would we pull it?’"

Rick Wershe lost. A jury convicted him. He was sentenced to prison for life. He’s still there. Eventually the Michigan Supreme Court and the legislature changed Michigan’s “650” law which said anyone convicted of possession of more than 650 grams of cocaine must serve a mandatory life without parole sentence.

After years in prison Wershe got a parole hearing. Once. In 2003. At that hearing, attorney Bufalino testified under oath before the Michigan Parole Board. He didn’t mince words.

"It was Bell and Gardner,” Bufalino testified. “They guaranteed him (Wershe) that he would walk. They pulled a motion, a dispositive motion on a search and seizure issue regarding this case. They pulled the motion. They hung this boy out to dry."

Bufalino also testified the Mayor of the City of Detroit, Coleman Young, thought the Rick Wershe case was important enough to stick his nose in it, a most unusual thing for a mayor to do; meddle in a criminal case.

"I was personally told by Coleman Young that this...'stay out of this'," Bufalino said Young warned him. "This is bigger than you think it is."

Any fair-minded person considering a man for parole would sit up and take notice of this accusation from a veteran defense attorney. Bufalino testified to the parole board that Detroit Mayor Coleman Young had interfered in a most sinister and unusual way in a pending criminal case that involved his personal family through Cathy Volsan Curry.

No one on the Michigan Parole Board followed up. No one asked Bufalino, now deceased, to elaborate and explain about this interference in the case that had Rick Wershe before them.

Rick Wershe trusted Cathy Volsan Curry and it was, perhaps, the third-biggest mistake of his life. The second-biggest was his decision to try to become a drug wholesaler after the federal drug task force dropped him as a paid informant and left him to fend for himself as a school dropout with nowhere to turn. His first-biggest mistake had to be his decision to work as a 14-year old confidential informant for the FBI.

“Cathy said her family said I should hire them (Bell and Gardner) because they were the ones that could help me the most,” Wershe remembers her saying.

They helped him alright. They helped him right in to the clothes he would wear the rest of his life: prison jumpsuits.