Sunday, December 4, 2016

Rick Wershe’s Fate may be determined One Year from Now

One year from now, December, 2017, Richard J. Wershe, Jr., known in the media as White Boy Rick, will learn if his nightmarish life sentence for a non-violent drug conviction handed down when he was a teenager, will come to an end. It may continue. It’s anybody’s guess. Between now and then people who support Wershe may have an opportunity—at last—to express their opinion in a public hearing.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr.’s file in the Michigan Department of Corrections says he’s due for parole consideration in December, 2017. A lot can happen between now and then. Much depends on fairness and integrity within the Michigan Parole Board.

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

On its face, the Michigan parole system is an orderly process. Scratch the veneer of that process and you’ll find politics—and plenty of it.

The Michigan Parole Board, ten ex-prosecutors, sheriffs and career employees of the Michigan Department of Correction appointed by the Governor, by default tilts toward swallowing whole whatever a county prosecutor tells them about a given inmate up for parole. There’s a presumption of truth in whatever a county prosecutor tells the board about whether an inmate should be paroled. Sometimes county prosecutors don’t object to parole for an inmate. In those cases, the granting of parole goes smoothly. But in other cases, if a prosecutor objects, the road to parole can be very rocky indeed.

That’s what happened to Rick Wershe in 2003 when he was eligible for his first parole hearing. The office of then-Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan waged a full-scale effort to sabotage Wershe’s parole. It included a scathing letter from Duggan claiming Wershe was an unredeemable menace to society who should remain locked up for the rest of his life.

Never mind that Wershe got in to the drug underworld after being recruited by federal agents who knew he knew the leaders of a major drug gang. Never mind that he helped the FBI bring down one of Detroit’s most powerful crack cocaine empires. Never mind that he was never convicted of a violent crime or even charged with one. Never mind that he was never charged federally under the so-called “kingpin” drug statute. Never mind that no one was ever charged as a member of Wershe’s mythical drug “gang.”

There are many “never minds” about the Wershe case, but it hasn’t mattered. In 2003 the Michigan Parole Board held a parole hearing for Wershe that resembled a kangaroo court. There were numerous stunning inconsistencies but the Parole Board had no curiosity about any of them. Wershe’s 2003 “hearing” appeared to be all for show. They denied his parole.

Regular readers of Informant America know there appears to be a vendetta by the corrupt Detroit/Wayne County political machine to keep Wershe in prison until he dies for helping the FBI successfully prosecute politically connected corrupt cops and the drug-dealing brother-in-law of the late Mayor Coleman Young. As Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s attorney, succinctly puts it, Rick Wershe told on the wrong people and he cost them a lot of money. It is reasonable to wonder if current Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who owes her career to the corrupt pols of Detroit and Wayne County, is continuing the vendetta by fighting aggressively to block Wershe’s release from prison.

Wershe was last up for parole consideration in 2012. In early July of that year he was sent a formal notice that stated he was scheduled for a Parole Board interview on August 20, 2012.

In 2012 the Michigan Parole Board initially indicated on the record that they intended to interview Rick Wershe, Jr. for possible parole.

Later that month, on July 23rd, notice was sent that Wershe’s parole interview was being canceled. The notice stated “The majority of the board has no interest in taking action at this time.

Less than a month later, the Parole Board reversed itself and canceled Wershe's formal interview, thus dashing his hopes for parole for at least five more years.

There was no explanation, no reason given. The Parole Board, which does as it pleases with no oversight, with no accountability, doesn’t have to give a reason. Did someone with political juice within the criminal justice system persuade the board to turn Wershe down again for parole? We have no way of knowing. All we know is they scheduled his next parole interview for December, 2017.

So sometime next year, Wershe’s 29th in prison, in a closed-to-the-public session, the Parole Board will again decide whether they want to consider Wershe for parole. Five years will have passed since the last time they voted “no interest.” If they vote “no interest” again, that’s that. He will be flopped to serve another five years before the next parole consideration. Attorney Musilli calls it serving a life sentence five years at a time.

If the Parole Board shows some interest next year in considering Wershe for parole, a single parole board member will interview him and share the results of that interview with the rest of the Board. A dossier will be prepared for the full board detailing all of the information about Wershe, good and bad, in the prison system files. Lifer cases must be considered by the full board. A hearing, a public hearing, will be scheduled. By law this requires two public notices be posted. This is a 60 day process. Since Wershe’s file calls for a December, 2017 review, the process will likely begin around June.

During this time, the prosecutor in the county where Wershe was convicted, Wayne County, will have an opportunity to remain silent and let the parole hearing go forward without objection, or notify the Parole Board they intend to object to Wershe’s release.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has withstood mounting criticism from the public and from the media for fighting to keep Wershe in prison. This past August she caused a stir in some media circles by announcing she might re-consider her position on Wershe since he was convicted as a juvenile. Then again, she might not. It was a total non-statement and it appears to have been intended to get the media off her back without doing anything about Wershe’s life sentence. Only Kym Worthy knows what position she will take regarding parole for Rick Wershe next year.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy-Will she continue the political vendetta against Rick Wershe in 2017? (Photo: WXYZ-TV)

The Michigan Attorney General gets a say in the matter, too. Like the Wayne County Prosecutor, the Michigan AG has opposed Wershe’s parole, citing the same erroneous and unsupportable information that sank his chances in 2003.

One more official gets half of a say, too. That’s Wayne County Circuit Court judge Dana Hathaway. She’s the judge who took over his case file when his original trial judge retired. Under the rules, she can object to Wershe’s parole but she can’t recommend parole. In other words, she only has input if she objects, which is not likely. Last year Judge Hathaway made it clear in an opinion and ruling that she thinks Wershe’s sentence ought to be reduced to time served. Kym Worthy fought that all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Judge Hathaway’s opinion won’t be part of the Parole Board’s deliberation process.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway. She thinks Rick Wershe should be re-sentenced to time served and released from prison. (Photo: Deadline Detroit)

A key element for the Parole Board is a review of the positives; why Rick Wershe should be released on parole. They want to know if he is a good “risk” to be allowed to return to the community. This is where his supporters can make a difference. At the appropriate time a campaign for letters of support will be in order. The goal will be to blitz the Parole Board with letters of support for Rick Wershe. 

He had a few letters of support at the 2003 parole hearing. A few hundred or maybe even a few thousand letters of support in 2017 would have an impact. 

If he gets a public hearing, possibly next fall, it would be an opportunity for all of those who say they believe Wershe should be set free to show up en masse and show the Parole Board that a substantial segment of the community believes this man has done enough time, that he should be paroled. 

Ideally, for Rick's sake, it should be standing room only. To borrow a current buzz word in politics, the optics would be powerful.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Matthew ‘Alright, Alright, Alright’ McConaughey may star in film about Rick Wershe, Jr.

This blog post will cover several events of note in the ongoing saga of Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

Academy-award winning actor Matthew McConaughey who starred in such films as Dallas Buyers Club, Magic Mike and Failure to Launch is reportedly in talks to star in White Boy Rick, a film “inspired by” the story of Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey. He is in talks to star in 'White Boy Rick', a film based on the story of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. McConaughy would play the role of Rick's father. (Photo: Associated Press)

McConaughey would play the role of Rick’s father, Richard J. Wershe, Sr. The role of Rick has not yet been cast. The film has been in development for several years and it has had multiple screenplay re-writes. Yann Demange, an acclaimed hot young director from the U.K. has been signed to direct the motion picture. Production is scheduled to begin next spring.

It’s anybody’s guess whether the Hollywood film will help Rick Wershe win his freedom. He’s been in prison nearly 29 years for a non-violent drug conviction when he was 18. At age 14 Wershe was recruited by the FBI to become a paid informant against the politically-connected Johnnie Curry drug gang on Detroit’s east side. Johnnie Curry was married to Cathy Volsan Curry, the niece of the late Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. Curry enjoyed police protection in the form of intelligence reports and other tips until he and his gang were brought down by the FBI with considerable help from Rick Wershe, Jr. Even though he was white and the Currys were black, the teenaged Wershe knew drug-dealing brothers Johnnie and Leo Curry through his friendship with their younger brother, Rudell “Boo” Curry.

When a federal drug task force got all they needed from their teen informant they kicked him to the curb to fend for himself. They indicted the Curry Brothers who pleaded guilty and went to prison.

Wershe came from a broken, dysfunctional family and the only trade he knew is the one law enforcement taught him: the dope trade. Wershe was never a drug user but thanks to the schooling of police narcs he knew his way around Detroit’s drug trade. Critics who say he ran with some of the biggest gangsters in Detroit in that era conveniently forget federal agents paid him to do that. Of course he consorted with drug dealers. That was what he was being paid to do.

Cocky but immature and cast adrift on the mean streets of Detroit, Rick Wershe, Jr. tried to become a “weight man”, a cocaine wholesaler. He didn’t last a year before Detroit Police narcs busted him on a major drug charge that carried a life sentence. The case was shaky but with the help of sensational media headlines about a white teen drug kingpin ruling the cocaine trade in mostly black Detroit, a jury bought the story the narcs concocted. Real drug kingpins from that era say it was a fabricated legend intended to win a conviction.  

For nearly two years, numerous blog posts on Informant America have detailed the facts and evidence pointing to an official vendetta to keep Wershe in prison because he told the hated FBI about drug trade corruption in the Detroit Police Department—and he embarrassed Coleman Young by having an affair with the mayor’s niece while he was secretly working for the FBI. Even after he went to prison Wershe continue to help the FBI in a major case which led to the conviction of a number of police officers and Willie Clyde Volsan, Cathy Volsan’s father and Mayor Young’s brother-in-law.

Not only did Wershe become one of Coleman Young’s enemies by being an FBI “stool pigeon” he also made the top of the enemies list of the late Gil Hill, movie-star Detroit cop and later Detroit City Council President. It was for the same reason. Wershe told the FBI about Hill’s corruption through cash from Johnnie Curry. The FBI tried, but failed, to gather enough evidence to indict and prosecute Hill for public corruption. They had evidence, they just didn’t have enough to ensure a jury conviction. But Hill learned he was almost prosecuted because of Rick Wershe, Jr. There’s strong evidence Hill did everything he could, pulled all the strings, called in political IOUs, to sabotage any hope Wershe might have for parole. It seems to have worked.

As Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s attorney, states succinctly: “He told on the wrong people and he cost the wrong people a lot of money.”

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who came up through the political machine of Detroit and Wayne County politics and who owes her career to some of the people Rick Wershe annoyed, has fought tenaciously to keep Wershe in prison.

Worthy has come under a lot of criticism about the Wershe case and her persecution as opposed to prosecution of juvenile offenders in Wayne County. She caused a media stir in August when she announced she might reconsider her position on the Wershe case. Some in the media hailed this as a big deal. It was no such thing.

Permit me two examples: Tomorrow I might reconsider my view that U.S. politics has become dysfunctional. Tomorrow I might reconsider my view that “reality” TV is total trash and a total waste of time. In other words, like Kym Worthy, I might reconsider a lot of things. It means nothing. It appears Kym Worthy said she might reconsider the Wershe case just to get the media off her back.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy - She pacified some in the media by announcing she "might" reconsider her position on the life sentence for Richard J. Wershe, Jr. So far she's done no such thing but it was enough to get a few reporters off her back for awhile.
(Photo: WDIV)

Worthy deserves to have the media on her back about a lot of her policies and managerial decisions. As she remains entrenched in office more and more she's becoming the Wayne County Persecutor instead of Prosecutor. Real justice is not on her radar screen. Late in the election season we urged voters to seriously consider her opponent in the election, Libertarian David Afton who opposed Worthy’s policy on juvenile justice in general and the Rick Wershe case in particular. This is not the first time he ran against Kym Worthy for Prosecutor. He lost but gained a lot of votes compared to the last time.

Here's the final vote totals for the 2016 election for Wayne County Prosecutor:
Worthy: 561,358  Afton: 106,036

It appears a lot of Rick’s supporters tried to help Afton win. Compare the totals above to the totals from the 2012 election:
Worthy: 645,938  Afton: 74,589

Afton gained 31,447 votes over his total in the last election. Conversely Worthy had 84,580 fewer votes this time around. Hey, it’s tough to beat the Detroit/Wayne County political machine and its anointed candidates like Kym Worthy.

Last but not least, Rick is asking once again that his supporters get behind his holiday food drive. Rick has been helping families in need for several years at the holidays. Each year brings more participation, more success for his food drive and more help for people who really need it.

Here’s what Rick posted on the Free Richard Wershe, Jr. Facebook page:

“This holiday season we are again asking for donations for the annual Rick Wershe Holiday Fundraiser.
All the donations will be used to help feed hungry families in the Detroit community where Rick grew up.
We're partnering with Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan and Emmanuel Lutheran Church to provide meals to needy families in Rick's old east side neighborhood. The Church provides meals and assistance to 75 families every month and right now they're short on the resources they need to feed everyone.
Rick's goal is to rejoin society so he can give back more and keep helping others who have faced difficult times in their lives. He likes to use the attention his case has been gotten to try to help others in need. No one should go hungry this holiday season and Rick wants to do what he can to help.
Last year (2015) we were able to donate $3,000 in food and clothing items to the Church.
We hope to match or exceed that this year. Thanks in advance for your generosity!”

If you’d like to help Rick help others, please go to the Free Richard Wershe, Jr. Facebook page. Tis the season.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Vote—Your Vote—for Justice in Wayne County

Libertarian David Afton has seemingly taken on Mission Impossible. He’s running against incumbent, some might say entrenched, Kym Worthy for Wayne County Prosecutor. Kym Worthy, who is black, has waged a vicious and vindictive battle to keep Richard J. Wershe, Jr., who is white, in prison until he dies for telling the FBI about corruption in Detroit’s black power structure. Sadly, many people see this as a racial issue. In truth, is a justice issue. If anyone has raised the specter of race, it is Worthy. Tuesday every voter in Wayne County has an opportunity to vote for Justice, which is why they should vote for David Afton.

Trying to defeat Kym Worthy isn't easy.

David Afton, a Dearborn attorney and former assistant Wayne County prosecutor is fighting an uphill battle. There’s no question about that. If you live in or know someone who lives in Livonia, Grosse Pointe Woods, Allen Park or Redford Township, you can help him. He’s taken on incumbent Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, a productive of, and member in good standing of, the Detroit/Wayne County black political machine. Most, but not all, members of that political machine are black. White career politicians are part of it, too. It’s as much a geographical clique as it is racial. It’s about the urban power structure of the City of Detroit and portions of Wayne County. If you cross it, you’re in for a nasty fight. One of the political goons of the Detroit/Wayne County power clique is Prosecutor Kym Worthy. She’s immensely powerful, but every four years she has to run for re-election. This is one of those years. If you live in or know someone who lives in Canton Township, Belleville, Dearborn Heights or Harper Woods you can help defeat Kym Worthy at the voting booth.

David Afton campaigning for Wayne County Prosecutor

How unjust is Kym Worthy? Just ask Richard J. Wershe, Jr., now in the 28th year of a life prison term for a non-violent drug case committed in Detroit when he was a teenager. Wershe did wrong. No argument about that. He tried to become a cocaine wholesaler after a federal drug task force recruited him—at age 14—to become a paid informant against a politically connected drug gang. When the feds were through with him, when they got what they needed to make a big drug case, they kicked him to the curb to fend for himself. He was a kid from a dysfunctional family and the only trade he knew was the one the cops taught him—the dope trade. He was wrong to try to get in to that racket but he was an immature kid, not an adult career criminal.

Hundreds of other guys like him have been paroled or had their sentences reduced. But Kym Worthy has fought all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court to keep Wershe in prison. The Informant America blog has shown in exhaustive detail in previous posts, that claims that Wershe was a major drug dealer are flat-out lies. As Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s appeals attorney says, Rick Wershe told on the wrong people. Politically powerful people. He cost those people a lot of money. Now, Kym Worthy, a hack for certain people in power in Detroit/Wayne County, is engaged in a massive injustice against Wershe as payback for telling the FBI about her corrupt pals.

Others have taken on seemingly impossible fights and won. The tale of David and Goliath is one example. In Wayne County in 2016 David is David Afton and Goliath is incumbent Kym Worthy.

David Afton says if he’s elected Wayne County Prosecutor one of the first things he would do is inform Wershe’s case judge, Dana Hathaway of Wayne County Circuit Court, that the Prosecutor’s office no longer opposes a sentence reduction for Wershe to what amounts to time served.

But Afton says exchanging injustice for justice in Wayne County is about more than Rick Wershe. “Some people seemed to see it as a white versus black thing. I’ve tried to make it clear I’m against all injustices,” Afton told me last week. “There are a lot of injustices going on and we have to take them on one by one. This is an egregious one and we have to address all of them. It doesn’t matter if they are white or black. We will address all of them.”
If you live in or know someone who lives in Plymouth, Flat Rock, Van Buren Township, Grosse Pointe Shores or Westland you can vote for a new Wayne County Prosecutor or you can urge someone you know in one of those communities to do so.

One call, then another, then another. Before you know it, the odds can be changed.

A last-minute daisy-chain of phone calls can have a multiplier effect. Voters need to understand this is about more than Rick Wershe. It’s bigger than Rick Wershe. It’s about ousting a politician who abuses the considerable power conferred on her by the voters. The Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project last summer singled out Kym Worthy, out of the estimated 2,400 prosecutors in the country, as “an extreme outlier” in her harsh treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system. An outlier is someone who is an oddity, an exception to the rule, an extreme example. Kym Worthy has shown she has no understanding of words like fairness and justice. All she knows is punishment because she thinks that’s what will keep getting her elected and living off the taxpayers.

Kym Worthy - The voters get to decideif she is the face of Justice in Wayne County for four more years.

The odds are in Kym Worthy’s favor, no doubt about that. She's black. She's female. That's enough for many people who think it would be racist to vote for anyone else. It's an added burden in this election fight. But the Chicago Cubs just showed the world that perseverance can make a difference.

Upsets have happened before.

Michigan is not a big early-voting state. Most people go to the polls. That’s why there’s a chance for individuals to make a difference at the voting booth.

David Afton says win or lose, he’s going to stick with the citizen movement to get fair justice for Richard J. Wershe, Jr. “No matter what happens I’m still going to be a part of that,” Afton said. “This guy needs to get out.”


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kym Worthy’s Election Opponent on Rick Wershe: “I would not block his re-sentencing.”

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is running for re-election on November 8th. Supporters of Rick Wershe know only too well she is the one person who has fought, ferociously, to keep him in prison until he dies. It’s part of a political vendetta because Wershe helped the FBI prosecute a politically connected drug gang and helped put drug-corrupted cops in prison. Wershe told on the wrong people and he cost them a lot of money. The Detroit/Wayne County political machine has retaliated by fighting to keep him behind bars. Convicted drug hitmen have served less time than Wershe. Kym Worthy’s election opponent, David Afton, thinks Wershe’s continued imprisonment is “unconscionable.” He wants and needs help defeating Kym Worthy at the ballot box. There’s not much time, but there’s enough if people take action.

David Afton.

I’ve never heard of him and I’ll bet you haven’t, either. He’s waging an uphill campaign to become the next Wayne County Prosecutor. The media, and Kym Worthy, have ignored him.

David Afton - Libertarian - He's running against Kym Worthy for Wayne County Prosecutor

If you go to the Detroit Free Press Web site and enter his name in the search box, you’ll find nothing.

Afton is not worth a mention in their election coverage.

If you go to the Detroit News Web site and enter his name in the search box, you’ll find nothing.

Afton is not worth a mention in their election coverage, either.

Phone calls, a lot of phone calls, can change that between now and Election Day. It won’t be easy but if all the people who have expressed outrage over the policies and arrogance of Kym Worthy start making phone calls and asking others to make phone calls, well, that’s how election upsets can happen.

Many readers of Informant America have sent emails supporting the release of Rick Wershe and some have pleaded with me to help them, somehow, with their case or the case of a relative who was sent to prison for a long term by Kym Worthy.

Anyone who has followed the saga of Mr. Wershe in these blogs posts and anyone who supports Dave Majkowski’s Free Richard Wershe, Jr.Facebook page knows Kym Worthy is the primary obstacle between Wershe and freedom.
David Afton could change that if he defeats Kym Worthy in the November 8th election.

For those who don’t know or don’t remember, last year Wayne County Circuit Court judge Dana Hathaway, the judge assigned to Wershe’s case after his original trial judge retired, reviewed his case in light of recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Michigan Supreme Court and she concluded the state’s most high profile non-violent drug case inmate was entitled to have his sentenced reduced to what amounted to time served.

She has an opponent in the election and he disagrees with her on the Richard Wershe, Jr. case. (Photo-WDIV-TV)

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who seems to think her responsibility is punishment, not justice, had a legal fit. 

She fought Wershe’s release with everything she had, wasting taxpayer money in terms of legal work against the release of Wershe. She fought it all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. The high court, in an amazing display of collective cowardice, decided not to hear the case even while it has been freeing prisoner after prisoner under one of its own rulings known as the Lockridge decision. In a craven display of spinelessness, none of the Michigan Supreme Court justices signed the non-decision regarding Wershe.

Yesterday (Saturday) I briefly interviewed David Afton by telephone. To follow are quotes from that interview:

(On Rick Wershe’s continued imprisonment)

“I actually don’t see any basis for it. It appears his punishment and his sentencing is far disproportional to not only what he did but to other people who have done similar, quote unquote, ‘crimes.’”

(On the fact Rick Wershe was a teenager when he was sentenced to life in prison.)

“It appears to me that there’s definitely an argument that he deserves a second look also because he was a juvenile.”
“There’s a reason we have a distinction, juvenile versus adult. Juveniles do lack sound judgment. There’s a reason we don’t let juveniles enter in to contracts, so to me, it’s unconscionable that they would be treated the same as an adult for a crime of this nature.”

(On Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway’s effort to re-sentence Rick Wershe)

“I would definitely (as Wayne County Prosecutor) not oppose any effort on the part of a defense attorney to seek another sentencing hearing or to seek a parole hearing.”
“The prosecutor does have the obligation to seek justice. The greater obligation is to avoid injustice.”

(As prosecutor, Afton says would not try to block the judge’s intent to review the Wershe case.)

“I would have nothing to fear or to hide. Let a re-sentencing hearing occur. Let a judge take a look at all the evidence and the circumstances. The same goes with the Parole Board. There’s nothing to fear. The truth is the truth.”

(On Kym Worthy’s strenuous efforts to stop Judge Hathaway from re-sentencing Rick Wershe)

“I don’t understand why it would serve justice to block this kind of thing—unless there is something to be afraid of.  I don’t understand why the powers that be (Kym Worthy) would be trying to block it, unless they are trying to hide something,
“I say, let the truth come out. Shine a light on it.”


This is the exact opposite of Kym Worthy’s position. As far as she’s concerned Rick Wershe is buried alive and she is doing all she can to keep it that way. He caused problems for her political and personal allies and this is her way of maintaining the vendetta that has continued for nearly 30 years.

If you think it’s time for Kym Worthy to go earn a living doing something else, David Afton is the option. You are encouraged to visit his Web site and read his positions on the issues. He offers a stark contrast to the way Kym Worthy operates. If you don't live in Wayne County, think of people you know who do live there. Reach out to them and talk about David Afton's campaign to unseat Kym Worthy. Ask them to contact their neighbors and encourage the neighbors to call other neighbors. It's how things change.

His Web site,, can be found here.

There is a choice in this election.


One of the Michigan voter election guides features the views of the candidates running for Wayne County Prosecutor. It is a good place to find David Afton’s responses to issues questions.

Kym Worthy didn’t bother to respond to the questionnaire. Apparently, she is so confident (arrogant) that she will win that she figured she didn’t have to bother providing the voters with her views on anything related to her job.

You can find the voter guide about the Wayne CountyProsecutor’s Office here. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

How Michigan Prison Inmate Richard Wershe can help the Republicans

You’re going to tell us a prison inmate can help a political party in the upcoming national election? Are you nuts? Maybe. Maybe not. In some admittedly mixed metaphors, let’s review the bloody political battlefield and see how Rick Wershe might help the GOP make some chicken salad out of a whole lot of chicken s**t.

Tonight Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went at each other again in the second presidential debate of 2016. The online magazine Politico called it “The Ugliest Debate Ever.”
It was indeed nasty on both sides. Hillary Clinton pointedly refused to shake hands with Trump as they took to the stage.

We knew how the debate was going to go when Hillary Clinton refused to shake hands with Donald Trump at the start of the 90 minute confrontation.

This time Trump was better prepared. 

At one point Clinton said, "You know it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in this country.” Trump shot back: “Because you’d be in jail.”

The charges and counter-charges were and are flying fast and thick after a 2005 videotape surfaced Friday in which Trump tells infotainment anchor Billy Bush that he can do whatever he wants with women because he’s a star. Trump made it clear in lewd terms what he meant.

Sunday it got worse for Trump. CNN found a 2004 Trump conversation with radio shock-jock Howard Stern in which Trump tells Stern, "It's okay to call my daughter a 'piece of ass.'"

But Trump fired back. Ninety minutes before the debate he 
held a brief panel discussion with four women who have claimed Bill Clinton used them for sex and that Hillary Clinton harassed them and threatened them when they tried to expose Bill Clinton’s sexual predator behavior. Trump brought the four women to the debate but they weren’t seen in the television coverage.

Mainstream establishment Republicans were in shell shock. Many moved at lightning speed to let the media know how upset and dismayed they were over Trump’s lewd remarks about women, and hey, for God’s sake, don’t tar me with that brush.

In Michigan over the weekend, as in many other states, Brand Name Republicans scrambled like rats deserting a sinking ship. On Saturday Lt. Governor Brian Calley and Michigan U.S. Representative Fred Upton joined a growing national chorus of Republican politicians urging Trump to drop out of the race.

“The latest revelations about Donald Trump and his past make it impossible for me to maintain support of him,” Calley said in a statement released to the Detroit News. Calley said he hopes Trump will step aside and allow the GOP to offer a replacement “that Americans could believe in,” noting his belief that Hillary Clinton would be a “disastrous alternative.” 

Calley says he will write in the name of Indiana Governor Mike Pence if Trump does not quit the race.

As for Upton, a Congressman from St. Joseph, he described Trump’s 2005 off-camera taped remarks about women outrageous and “a new low.”

Ronna Romney McDaniel, who chairs the Michigan Republican Party called Trump's taped statements "reprehensible and disgusting" but said she thinks Michigan voters know those comments reflect the views of Donald Trump and not other Republicans, including those from Michigan who are running for "down ballot" electives offices. 

Clearly, she was trying to limit the damage to other Republicans on the November ballot.

Significantly, the Trump-inspired anxiety and dismay in the GOP political class isn’t shared in equal measure among rank and file Republican voters. Saturday House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, a big shot Republican, held a big fundraiser in his home state of Wisconsin. Friday Ryan dis-invited Trump from the rally after pronouncing himself “sickened” by Trump’s comments that women will let him do whatever he wants with them because he’s “a star.”

Trouble is, when Ryan took the stage at the rally, a number of attendees began booing—at him. He’s part of the Republican establishment and millions of conservative voters made clear in the primaries that they loathe the party’s grand pooh-bahs like Ryan.

Sally Luell, a 68-year old municipal worker who attended the Ryan fundraiser said she found Trump’s comments about women abhorrent, but “I think Hillary Clinton backing her husband when he was doing what he was doing was worse,” she told the Los Angeles Times. Her comment about Bill Clinton’s White House sexcapades when he was President reflects the thinking of many Trump supporters.

I don’t operate or have access to a political polling organization so my impressions of political trends are purely anecdotal. But my sense is the latest Trump uproar isn’t going to move the needle much in terms of the election. 

While many women are troubled and upset by Trump’s crudeness and sexism, it’s not enough to get them to vote for the distrusted and detested Hillary Clinton.

“Bill Clinton was getting b*** jobs from an intern while he and Hillary were in the White House and I’m supposed to get upset about Trump’s comments about women?” one woman asked me rhetorically.

By every indication Donald Trump is a misogynist. The legendary 1920s newspaper columnist H.L. Mencken once defined a misogynist as a man who hates women almost as much as they hate each other. There are plenty of American women who hate Hillary Clinton.

What the Washington political and media elites can’t seem to get through their heads is that vast numbers of Americans, from the supporters of Bernie Sanders to the supporters of Donald Trump, are fed up with the status quo. The establishment power-brokers of both parties just don’t get it. 

The game is changing.

Going forward the Republican Party, including the GOP in Michigan, is faced with some unpleasant truths. Short term, it's painfully obvious "the base" ain't buying what the political power brokers are selling. The Party needs a new pitch, on many things.

Check out the obituary pages. White males are dying off. Politically, demographics are destiny. Over half of the nation’s voters are women. Latinos and Asians are rapidly replacing white males in the nation’s population. And blacks have been and remain a substantial voting bloc.

If the Republican Party as we’ve known it is to remain viable and not doomed to become just a couple of paragraphs in the history books, it’s attitude and positions are going to have to change. It is going to have to find a way to accommodate the concerns that translate in to political issues for people who are not white males.

Prison reform—now, today—is one place where Republicans can move quickly to demonstrate “new” thinking. That includes Michigan.

President Barack Obama has made political hay in recent months out of pardons for federal prisoners doing time for drug crimes. It reduces the federal prison population and the taxpayer costs that go with it.

Obama has commuted 774 prison sentences, more than the past 11 presidents combined. He did it because the Obama team has concluded it will play in Peoria as the saying goes.  

The country’s attitude about the punishment part of crime and punishment is changing. For 30-some years it has been fashionable for politicians of all stripes to show they are “tough on crime.”

“Lock ‘em up and throw away the key.” It sounds good. But voters have come to realize that kind of macho tough-on-crime attitude costs money—a lot of money. Money that is coming out of their wallets. Building more and bigger prisons means staffing them and paying the staff salaries and benefits. It means equipping the prisons and maintaining that equipment. It means providing everything including food and medical care for all those prisoners who have been locked up for long sentences.

Funny thing about long prison sentences. The prisoners get older. And their health fails like the rest of us. It costs money to give them health care. And the courts have made it clear over and over again that if society deprives someone of their liberty, society has an obligation to care for that individual as long as he or she is in prison.

Governors are notoriously stingy with pardons and sentence commutations. Michigan’s governor is no exception.

Rick Snyder has no interest in prisons and the state’s corrections system even though it accounts for a fifth of the entire state budget. He didn’t have any interest in water for citizens, either, until something happened in—where was it again?—Oh, yes, Flint.

Snyder could reduce the state’s prison population and he and his political party could claim credit; Not for giving prisoners a break, but they could spin it as giving a break to the taxpayers. 

Snyder could free hundreds of inmates and make a solid political case that he’s saving truckloads of tax dollars; something Republicans and other conservatives care about as much as crime and punishment. As noted above, Corrections is responsible for about 20% of Michigan’s annual tax expenditures. Making a dent in that makes political sense. 

Even Newt Gingrich says so. 

The former Speaker of the House and frequent Republican talking head on the news shows wrote an editorial page opinion two years ago arguing that Michigan needs to enact prison reform—to cut taxes. Gingrich gave Snyder and the other Republicans in Lansing a road map on how to make political hay out of reducing the prison inmate population.

Most of the Michigan prison inmates—like most other states—are black. Pardoning or commuting the sentences of all inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses is something Snyder and other Republicans could trumpet in the inner cities come election time. This election and others to come.

Gov. Rick Snyder. Is he smart enough to figure it out? (Photo: Carlos Osorio, AP)

But to mollify mostly white hardcore outstate conservatives and convince them that he isn’t just pandering to blacks, Snyder needs at least a few token white inmates on his pardon/commutation list. You know, just to make it look good.

Arguably, Michigan has no higher profile white drug inmate than Richard J. Wershe, Jr. He’s been behind bars for nearly 29 years for a non-violent drug conviction. Admitted drug hitmen, paid killers, have been convicted, sentenced, done their time and are back out in the time Wershe has been behind bars.

Wershe is a political prisoner. He’s served an extraordinarily long prison sentence because he was a white FBI informant against politically powerful criminals in Detroit. Some Detroit cops made a shaky drug case against him but it was enough to send him to prison for a life term. Corrupt Detroit politicians like the late Gil Hill, who Wershe informed on, conspired to keep him in prison until he dies. So far, the vendetta of the corrupt has worked.

An added benefit for Snyder would be a pardon or 
commutation for Wershe would be a way to stick it in the eye of the politically corrupt in Detroit without overtly doing so.

Is Rick Snyder smart enough to figure all this out? Is Donald Trump capable of keeping his mouth and his Twitter feeds under control? The answers to both questions are not known.