Sunday, July 17, 2016

Wait! There IS a Wershe police file! No! Wait! Maybe not!

Those who read last week’s blog post—A New Foul Odor in the Rick Wershe Case—know I’ve been given the runaround by the Detroit Police Department on whether they do or do not have a file on Rick Wershe, Jr., a man they sent to prison for life for supposedly being the teenaged Godfather of the city’s narcotics underworld, a man prosecutors insist is a menace to society who needs to die in prison. This week another reporter got the same double-talk runaround when he filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for what the DPD has—or doesn’t have—on Richard J. Wershe, Jr. The official stonewalling and double-speak regarding Rick Wershe needs to stop.

I’m pleased to say a lot of people read the Informant America reports about the travails of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. known in urban legend and media myth-making as White Boy Rick. There have been over 112,000 online page views since these blog posts began in March, 2015. Thank you.

Rick Wershe, Jr. in court last September. (Photo:David Coates via AP)

Many people get frustrated reading about this case and they want to help somehow. In this post, I’ll offer a plan of action anyone can take to help put pressure on the Detroit law “enforcement” establishment regarding the injustice we call the Wershe case. You know; the people who drive around in cars with the slogan, “To Protect and Serve.” But first, here’s an update on the law and order follies:

This past week, MLive (link to story) reporter Gus Burns followed up on my recent blog post noting the Detroit Police told me via FOIA responses that, a) the federal government did the investigation on Rick Wershe, Jr., even though he was prosecuted in Detroit’s Recorder’s Court and the only law enforcement prosecution witnesses were Detroit cops, and after I pointed out that is so much BS I got another response stating b) they do have something about him—a single piece of paper stating he was sentenced to life in prison in a drug case, and c) well, no, they actually can’t find an actual file on him.

MLive is an online service focused on Michigan news and affiliated with several Michigan newspapers. It is a bit like the wire services of yore, only directly accessible to readers.

MLive reporter Burns decided to follow up on the ever-changing Detroit Police story about the Rick Wershe file. There were two developments, which he reported.

First, the Detroit Police told him they DO have a file on Rick Wershe, Jr.—maybe. "I was advised that we have located a file that may be responsive to the (MLive) FOIA request," Detroit Police Officer Nicole Kirkwood of the Media Relations Office said to Burns in an email. "That file, she said, has been forwarded to the Law Department for review.

Burns contacted the City of Detroit Law Department where the mysterious Wershe file was news to them. “A representative in the Detroit Law Department told MLive they never received the file,” Burns reported. Burns went back to the Detroit Police Department and was told they couldn’t clarify where the file was but they were “looking into it.”

Whew! That’s a relief! Being trained police officers and all, there’s no doubt their crack investigators willl get to the bottom of their own missing file on the legendary and notorious White Boy Rick. To repeat a rhetorical question that I posed to readers of the previous blog, “How does this smell to you?”

These games have to stop. A man is spending his life in prison and these people are treating it like a joke. So I have an idea.

Why don’t each of you reading this blog send in your own Freedom of Information Act request for the Richard J. Wershe, Jr. Detroit Police file?.

I’ll help you do it. I’m serious about this and here’s why.

We—all of us—don’t know what happened to the Wershe narcotics investigation/prosecution file created by the Detroit Police Department in 1987/88. It has to be of significant size. The police and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office claimed in response to my FOIA requests that they no longer have a Wershe file. They told MLive reporter Burns they purge all files after 20 years except for murder cases. Maybe they do. But if there is an evidentiary hearing regarding the issue of whether Rick Wershe truly is a menace to society, the police and prosecutor have nothing—nothing—to present in court or before the Michigan Parole Board to support their vigorous contention that Wershe must stay in prison until he dies. That is, if they are telling the truth that they don’t have any file information on Wershe.

But it wouldn’t be a shock if they somehow miraculously found the file if their backs were to the wall in front of a judge. So what if they lied to a couple of reporters about it in response to formal requests under Michigan’s FOIA law? That’s breaking the law, but it’s obvious they pick and choose which laws to follow in their role as law and order representatives.

But if fifty, a hundred, two hundred, five hundred citizens ask for the Rick Wershe file and the city sends reply letters to each stating the file has been purged, well, then they are stuck. They won’t be able to magically “find” the missing file. To do so would mean they will have lied to X-number of citizens who asked for it.

Think about it. Here’s a chance for each of you to put pressure on these, uh, defenders of justice, and do it lawfully using a Michigan state law enacted for your benefit. Yes, it is your right as a citizen to use the Michigan Freedom of Information Act to ask government agencies for accountability. The concept is called open government.

Allow me to help you write the letter asking for the Wershe file. My explanation is going to sound more complicated than it is, I promise.

I’ve taken the liberty of writing the FOIA request letter for you. I’ve saved it as a PDF. Here is the link:

Wershe FOIA letter

If you have some problem downloading it, I am posting the entire letter below as text in this blog post. You can use copy-and-paste to copy it from the blog and paste it in to Word or whatever text software you use. I promise this is not as difficult as it may seem. I’m trying to walk you through this in a blog post so this process is a bit clunky, but it’s fairly simple.

One wrinkle to filing a FOIA request with the Detroit Police is there’s a city form that must accompany your request letter. You can click on the following link to download the form which must accompany your FOIA letter:

Or you can Google: Detroit police foia form

It will be the first item that appears in the Google list of returned searches.

The answers to the first few lines of the form are obvious. Ignore item # 3 which is for lawyers or insurance companies. 

As for the other lines:

4. (Type of record requested) Narcotics file
5. (Name referred to in record) Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
6.(Description/nature of incident) Narcotics arrest and prosecution
7. (Date and time of incident, if any, or period of time:) 1987
8. (Detroit address or intersection of incident, if any:) Multiple locations
9. Other information: You can leave this blank.

Sign it and date it and include it with your FOIA letter. Two pages.

To follow is a FOIA request letter you can use. Put the date of your letter at the top. Then just copy and paste the rest and sign it (print your name clearly below your signature) and your return address and drop it in the mail. Two sheets of paper, one envelope and one stamp.

Then wait. This is a slow process. Your dealing with a bureaucracy. In a few weeks, or maybe a month or two, you will get a response letter. If they’ve been telling the truth they should say they don’t have a file on Richard Wershe. If they DO tell you they have a file, let me know! Here’s the letter for you to copy and paste:

(Insert today’s date)
City of Detroit FOIA Coordinator
City of Detroit Law Department
2 Woodward Avenue, Suite 500
Detroit, Michigan 48226

To the City of Detroit FOIA Coordinator:

Under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act § 15.231 et seq., I am requesting copies of all City of Detroit Police reports and documents, related to Richard J. Wershe, Jr., DOB 07/18/1969.

In addition to a general file search it is requested that a specific search be made of the Detroit Police Narcotics Section files for information related to Mr. Wershe.

A City of Detroit FOIA Request form for Police Records is included with this FOIA request letter.

Mr. Wershe was charged, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Detroit Recorder’s Court in a narcotics case of considerable public interest. I am a citizen and I am interested in this case.

I request that you grant a waiver of all fees associated with fulfilling this FOIA request.

As you know the Michigan Freedom of Information Act requires a response to this request within five business days.  If duplication of the records I am requesting will take longer than this amount of time, please contact me with information about when I might expect to receive copies of the requested records.

If you deny any portion of this request, please cite the specific document that contains material that is the subject of denial and each specific Freedom of Information Act exemption within the document you feel justifies the refusal to release the information.

As you know, if a portion of any document is exempt under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, the exempt material must be redacted and the remainder of the document must be disclosed.


(Your name)
(Your mailing address)

Enclosure: one (1)


This will only take a few minutes of your time. Remember: you have every right to do this under the law. They have an obligation—under Michigan law—to give you an answer. 

(People should do this for all kinds of state and local public records, to keep ‘em honest.)

Who knows? If a number of you take the time to stir the pot maybe Michigan’s news media will follow your example in demanding answers about Rick Wershe from officials who can’t seem to find them.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A new foul odor in the Rick Wershe Case

Just when it seemed all the stench surrounding the case of former FBI informant and current life prison-term inmate Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was out in the open, along comes the Detroit Police Department with a fresh pile of manure that stinks really bad. Read on but you may want to hold your nose.

Long, long ago, when I was a rookie reporter in Detroit, I sat down for an important background briefing and discussion with Neil J. Welch, now deceased, who was the head of the FBI for that city at the time. Welch was a veteran of J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation but he was forward-thinking and believed the FBI needed to expand its work beyond chasing bank robbers, fugitives and Communists.

For my part, I was hot to pursue organized crime cases, a crime category the FBI was revving up to pursue. The Godfather was a blockbuster movie in that era and I wanted Welch to help me develop news stories about the Mob. He agreed organized crime was a serious problem that needed media exposure, but Welch encouraged me to report on another category of crime, too.

“Vince,” Welch said in his slow, raspy voice, “Public corruption in Michigan is wall to wall. It’s everywhere. It needs to be exposed in the media and prosecuted in the federal courts.”

The late Neil J. Welch, FBI executive. Decades ago he said public corruption in Michigan is "wall to wall." (Associated Press photo)

In a bizarre twist of fate, Welch was promoted to Assistant FBI Director in charge of the New York City office just a few days before the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. The new boss of the Detroit FBI had not arrived when Hoffa disappeared. For his part, Welch aggressively pursued public corruption as head of the New York office. The result of his effort was the famous Abscam case, which led to the convictions of six U.S. Representatives, one U.S. Senator, a New Jersey State Senator, several members of the Philadelphia City Council and the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, all for accepting bribes in an FBI sting operation.

The advice I received about wall to wall public corruption in Michigan way back when from Neil Welch came back to mind late this past week when I received a letter from the Corporation Counsel—the city attorney—for Detroit, responding to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for copies of everything the Detroit Police Department had in its files regarding Richard J. Wershe, Jr., the teen FBI informant they arrested and prosecuted as a Godfather-like dope lord, smearing him for life with the nickname White Boy Rick.

FOIA is a state law in Michigan and in theory it is supposed to compel units of government to be open about how they conduct their business. With some exceptions spelled out in the state law, the records of municipal and state agencies, including police departments, must be made available when sought under the FOIA statute. In practice, far too many units of government in Michigan turn over only those documents they feel like turning over. Michigan’s FOIA law has no teeth, and that’s by design. State lawmakers don’t want the seedy inner workings of some parts of government exposed.

I had asked for everything the Detroit Police had on Wershe; investigative documents and reports, witness statements, surveillance reports, photos— e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I told them Rick Wershe, Jr. was willing to sign a sworn, notarized affidavit waiving his right to privacy regarding my request, which was true. “Privacy considerations” is a major dodge used to avoid turning over documents sought through FOIA at the state and federal level. There’s a federal FOIA law, too. Like state government, federal agencies work hard to find ways to evade the federal Freedom of Information Act. There are workshops and seminars on how government agencies can legally resist the FOIA laws, but I digress.

The City of Detroit’s first response to my FOIA request was dumbfounding. With the exception of a single page—one document—they denied my request for their files on Wershe because “the case was handled by the Federal Government.”


City of Detroit response to a FOIA request for the Police Department's entire file on Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

A DEA agent, Richard Crock, had worked with Detroit Police narcs to make a case against Wershe as part of a federal drug task force where federal agents and local cops co-mingled to make important cases. But Wershe is in a state prison on a state conviction in a trial prosecuted by the Wayne County Prosecutor who is responsible for state prosecutions.

The lone Detroit Police document on Wershe, provided to me in response to my FOIA request was a sheet labeled Recorders Court Disposition. Recorder’s Court is what they used to call the criminal court for Detroit. It is now called the Third Judicial Circuit Court Criminal Division.

The sheet describes Wershe’s conviction under state law. There is no mention of federal law enforcement anywhere on the one document the Detroit Police Department claims to have in its file on Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

A portion of the one and only document the Detroit Police Department claims it has on Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

I happen to have a copy of the witness list from Wershe’s 1988 Recorder’s Court trial, obtained from the court’s own file. The prosecution’s law enforcement witnesses were:
  • Rodney Grandison, Detroit Police Officer
  • Gerard Biernacki, Detroit Police Officer
  • Gregory Woods, Detroit Police Officer
  • and a couple of evidence and lab technicians.

Special Agent Crock was not called as a witness. Not a single federal agent was called as a prosecution witness. Not one. The only law enforcement investigators to testify against Richard J. Wershe, Jr. at his trial where he was sentenced to life in prison were Detroit cops.

I appealed the city’s refusal to turn over the documents I sought under FOIA, citing the ludicrous denial based on the claim “the case was handled by the Federal Government.” The one Detroit Police document they turned over to me completely refuted their own claim.

I also know Richard J. Wershe, Jr. has never been a defendant in ANY federal court for anything. He’s never been charged as a co-conspirator in any drug case. His name never came up in any of the big drug cases in Detroit federal court in the late 80s or at any other time. His name won’t be found in any federal criminal prosecution. Period.

My appeal of the city’s FOIA denial was denied. The second denial letter, received a few days ago, acknowledges my assertion that it is ridiculous to claim the Detroit Police don't have any records on Wershe because Wershe’s case was handled by the federal government when he was prosecuted in Detroit’s criminal court—Recorder’s Court. When that line didn’t work, they said they have no records on Rick Wershe. None.

The appeal denial by the City of Detroit legal department states:

“Please be advised that, in accordance with Section 10(2)(b) of the Act, MCL 15,240(2)(b), the disclosure denial regarding your request is upheld pursuant to Section 5(4)(b) of the Act, MCL 15.235(4)(b), for the reason that, based upon information provided by DPD personnel, it is our understanding that the department does not possess any record that corresponds to the description in your request. Specifically, a search was conducted for the file, but the file could not be located.”

“…a search was conducted for the file, but the file could not be located.”

Gosh darn. Imagine that. The file on a man the Detroit Police and Wayne County Prosecutor labeled a “drug kingpin” and drug “lord”, a white kid who supposedly ruled the roost of Detroit’s murderous, mostly-black crack cocaine underworld Godfather-style in the 1980s, “could not be located.” Poof. It vanished. Just like that. A man they sent to prison for life as a teenager now has no file in the Detroit Police Department. First they tried to claim everything about him was handled by federal agents. When that lie was exposed for what it is, they now claim the Wershe file cannot be located. They have nothing in their files about him.

Does this sound plausible to you? More to the point, how does this smell to you?

Oh, and don’t forget. Last year the Wayne County Prosecutor sent me the same kind of denial in response to my FOIA request to that office.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.”

That’s the FOIA response last year from Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who has fought aggressively and tenaciously through the Michigan appeals courts to keep Rick Wershe in prison at all costs.

Does this sound plausible to you? More to the point, how does this smell to you?

Let’s go over the facts again. Rick Wershe was recruited at age 14 by the FBI to inform on the Curry Brothers drug gang because he knew them. The FBI was interested in the Currys because Johnny Curry was married to Cathy Volsan, the niece of the late Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. Wershe did a good job for the FBI. Too good. He also told on crooked cops. He told his FBI handler about Johnny Curry’s close relationship with Detroit Police Homicide Inspector Gil Hill who thwarted the investigation of the murder of a 13-year old boy to protect the Curry gang. The Curry group had inadvertently killed the kid. After he went to prison Curry told FBI agents he paid Hill $10,000 to make the homicide investigation take a wrong turn. It did. Hill went on to a second career on the Detroit city council where he eventually became council president and ran unsuccessfully for mayor.

When the FBI had no further use of Wershe, they dropped him cold. A school dropout from a dysfunctional family, Wershe turned to the only trade he knew, the one law enforcement had taught him. He tried to become a cocaine wholesaler and got busted by the Detroit Police. The FBI did not come to his aid. Wershe was sent to prison for life. Even so, he continued helping the FBI—from prison. He helped them nail a dozen or so corrupt cops in a drug sting operation that also netted Willie Volsan, Cathy Volsan’s father and the brother-in-law of Mayor Young. After that there was no doubt Rick Wershe was the source of a lot of trouble for important people. As his attorney, Ralph Musilli says, "he cost some important people a lot of money."

In the process, Wershe made powerful enemies; Coleman Young and Gil Hill. Together they had enormous influence over Detroit’s black political power structure. Barbara Sampson, a member of that black power structure and a member of the Michigan Parole Board once astounded other members of the Parole Board by claiming Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick—was singlehandedly responsible for the destruction of the City of Detroit. That’s a ridiculous claim, of course, but it’s instructive about the view of Rick Wershe that has pervaded Detroit’s black political clique for years. That same clique is responsible for the political career of current Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who is fighting to keep Wershe in prison even after admitting her office doesn’t have any documentation to support opposition to parole for Wershe.

As has been noted numerous times, Rick Wershe is no angel. He admits that. He was wrong to try to become a mogul in the dope trade. But he didn’t make it. Guys who slung far more dope than Rick Wershe ever saw in his life, guys like Johnny and Leo Curry, have been to prison and are out again while Wershe remains behind bars. His biggest mistake was in telling on politically-connected criminals. He’s white and they are black. That’s an inescapable factor. 28 years is far more time than even convicted hitmen do.

With the exception of Wayne County Circuit Court judge Dana Hathaway, who has indicated she thinks Wershe should be re-sentenced under current Michigan law and State Supreme Court rulings, the courts in Michigan have been perfectly willing to let a great injustice go unchallenged in order to avoid riling Detroit’s black power structure.

Wershe and attorney Ralph Musilli have fought all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court trying to get him treated the same as over a hundred other Michigan prison inmates who have had their cases sent back for reconsideration by the trial court because they were sentenced when they were juveniles.

On June 22nd, in one of the most craven rulings on record, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to send Wershe’s case back to the trial court as they have done with dozens and dozens of other defendants. The Wershe ruling is craven—cowardly—because the Michigan Supreme Court offered no explanation, no case law—and no signatures from any of the Justices. It was an unsigned order, which is allowed, but it is spineless. The order says an anonymous “we” are “not persuaded” Wershe’s case should be reviewed. There’s no explanation but here’s a good bet as to what is behind their Wershe decision: what the Michigan Supreme Court is saying is “we” don’t want to incur the wrath of the black political power structure, so we’re willing to turn our backs on injustice. After all, Michigan Supreme Court justices are elected.

Key words in the Michigan Supreme Court's recent refusal to review the life sentence for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

As Neil Welch of the FBI told me long ago, “Vince, public corruption in Michigan is wall to wall." But not all corruption involves bribes. Some corruption is moral. It involves the failure to do what’s right. It involves the failure to uphold justice—as the Michigan Supreme Court has done in the case of Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another Setback in Rick Wershe's Quest for Justice

This blog post is to update followers of the Rick Wershe, Jr. saga on some bad news.

The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to consider Rick Wershe's appeal that his trial judge be allowed to re-sentence him under recent rulings by the same court. 

Under the so-called "Lockridge case" the Michigan Supreme Court has sent back to the trial courts dozens and dozens of cases where an inmate was sentenced under previously restrictive sentencing guidelines. The high court has overturned those guidelines and ordered these cases be re-considered for a revised sentence. It even applies to murder cases. In fact, the Lockridge case was itself a murder case.

In its ruling the Michigan Supreme Court gave no reason for denying the same opportunity to Rick Wershe. It just says "Denied." None of the judges signed the ruling, which is standard. Apparently no one wanted their name attached to this latest injustice. 

"I'm furious. It's just outrageous," was the reaction of Ralph Musilli, Wershe's appeals attorney. "Rick's biggest crime was working for the government," Musilli said. "He helped them in the 'War on Drugs' and now he's being punished for it."

Regular readers of the Informant America blog know I have argued repeatedly that Rick Wershe, Jr. is a political prisoner. He's being paid back for helping the FBI as a confidential informer against drug-corrupted cops, a former celebrity-cop-turned-city-councilman (Gil Hill) and the brother-in-law of the late Coleman Young, the longtime emperor, uh, I mean mayor, of the City of Detroit. This is a case of payback time for the FBI through one of its informers, Rick Wershe, Jr.

Wershe, who is white, crossed the Detroit black political power establishment by helping the detested FBI investigate corruption. There has been a vendetta against him ever since. It's a case of black racism, plain and simple, and various whites (and blacks) in the so-called criminal justice system have been too cowardly to stand up for what is right in this saga. After all, most of them, including the Michigan Supreme Court, want to be elected again and they don't want to anger Detroit's black political establishment for showing any mercy or justice to a white man the black power clique loathes for helping prosecute public corruption among powerful blacks.

The blunt truth is, if Rick Wershe, Jr. was black, this would be an entirely different story. It's true that there's plenty of white injustice against blacks that needs to be remedied. But apparently, black injustice against whites doesn't merit equal justice.

More in the next regular Informant America blog post. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Detroit News says Kym Worthy Should Be Held Accountable—They’ve Got That Right

There’s plenty to criticize regarding Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, yet few ever do. She’s black. She’s female. She has mastered the art of pretending to be a champion of justice, a defender of law and order. Who could want more than a black woman who likes to say “facts matter,” except when they are inconvenient? The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office makes mistakes—a lot of them. Good luck getting Kym Worthy to admit it. Someone—meaning the voters of Wayne County—needs to demand that she seek the truth in all cases—not just when it suits her.

Kym Worthy was big news all across the country recently. She was on the network nightly news. She was on the front page in more than a few national newspapers. But not in a good way. She was portrayed—accurately—as a stubborn, unprofessional prosecutor who let a man who was sent to prison when he was a teen, rot in jail for murders he did not commit.

Davontae Sanford: Another victim of justice, Kym Worthy-style.

Davontae Sanford was 14 when he was arrested, 15 when he was convicted by Kym Worthy’s office on charges he committed a quadruple homicide in a drug house in 2007. He received a 37-to-90-year sentence. He’s a young man now, but still small. He’s blind in one eye. Someone hit him in the eye with an egg when he was nine.

Two weeks—TWO WEEKS—after the teen was sent to prison, a professional hitman named Vincent Smothers confessed to the murders. Smothers, who has committed numerous murders, is in prison. But even a convicted hitman can sometimes do the right thing.  Smothers signed a sworn affidavit stating he was the killer, not Devontae Sanford.

Convicted hitman Vincent Smothers-he confessed he committed the murders Davontae Sanford was wrongly convicted for, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy refused to listen--for years. (Photo: Brandy Baker, Detroit News)

Smothers didn’t just confess once. He said often over the years that it was he, not Devontae Sanford, who murdered the four people. Kym Worthy did nothing with the information. To do so would be to admit her office and the Detroit Police had made a mistake. A very big mistake.

It wasn’t until a team of lawyers from Dykema, Gossett, a large Detroit law firm, working pro bono (for free), the Northwestern Center for the Wrongful Convictions of Youth and the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office took up the Sanford case that Prosecutor Worthy was motivated to ask the State Police to take a second look at the case. It wasn’t long before the State Police found perjury on the part of a key police prosecution witness—yet the haughty and prideful Kym Worthy would not admit her office and the Detroit Police bungled an essentially life-sentence murder case.

The flaw in the Devontae Sanford case is the same as it is in the Rick Wershe life-sentence drug case: perjury—lying—by the Detroit Police. In both cases Kym Worthy steadfastly refused to believe her witnesses could be lying. They were.

In the Sanford case the lying on the witness stand wasn’t just by some stumble-bum alcoholic narc. It was a Deputy Chief of Police: James Tolbert. When the Michigan State Police did the due diligence Kym Worthy’s office should have done, they found Tolbert couldn’t keep his story straight. Tolbert went on to become the Chief of Police in Flint, Michigan for a while. He was fired from his job as police chief without explanation this past winter.

Former Detroit Police Deputy Chief, former Flint, Michigan Police Chief (Flint Journal file photo)

What makes matters worse, Sanford’s defense attorney, Robert Slameka, has been censured 17 times by the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board for improperly representing his clients.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan vacated Sanford’s sentence and Kym Worthy magnanimously announced she would dismiss all charges against this innocent young man and not re-try him. How nice. How generous. How just.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy - she cannot and will not admit mistakes, even when they destroy lives unjustly. (Detroit News photo, Clarence Tabb, Jr.)

Worthy’s attitude in the Sanford case is disturbingly similar to her circle-the-wagons stand in the Rick Wershe drug case, where the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office allowed and encouraged distortions, misleading information and outright lies about his role in Detroit’s drug underworld to go unchallenged or corrected. To this day she will not summon the integrity to ask for a finding of facts in the Wershe case by an independent investigation. Independent means just that; an inquiry not linked to the police/prosecution axis in Michigan’s criminal justice system.

This woman has a serious character flaw that impacts thousands of people and it’s about time the voters called her out on it. She cannot admit a mistake. She will not correct a mistake unless forced to do so by the courts.

Her claim in a press conference last year that “facts matter” is so much bullshit. They only matter when she, and she alone, decides they matter. She arrogates to herself the roles of prosecutor, judge, jury and decider of paroles. If you think she doesn’t consider herself the decider of paroles, just look at how hard she’s fighting to keep Rick Wershe in jail when every single one of Michigan’s other juveniles sentenced to life for a non-violent drug crime have been set free; except Rick Wershe.

She answers to no one, least of all the voters and citizens of Wayne County. If she and her staff screw up, she isn’t held accountable. There’s no penalty. Michigan law, and the law in most states, gives county prosecutors a free pass to be malicious, reckless and/or incompetent. Nothing will happen to them. Nothing will happen to Kym Worthy unless the voters kick her out of office. Fat chance.

There needs to be a personal penalty for her repeated malfeasance in the administration of criminal justice and it needs to be a big one. Perhaps a penalty that hits her in her law license, or her personal pocketbook. If her law license was suspended for, say, six months, maybe that would accomplish both penalties. If she can’t perform her elected duties due to legal sanctions, it’s only fair that she forego her salary for those six months. Let someone else run her office.That way she cannot muck up the criminal justice system for six months.

In an editorial about the outrageous Sanford case the Detroit News said of Kym Worthy "...her office has much to answer for...including ignoring the repeated attempts by convicted hit man Vincent Smothers to take responsibility for the murders, and not recognizing the flimsiness of the evidence against Sanford.”

Well, yes and no. By focusing on “her office” that would let Kym Worthy weasel out of responsibility and blame underlings. This has to stop. She’s the one who sits in the big chair in the big office. She loves to take the credit when it’s to her benefit. If things go wrong, as they did in the Sanders case and the Wershe case, she’s quick to shift the blame to someone else. Or dig in her heels and resist all efforts to right a serious wrong.

The Detroit News editorial also misses the mark by suggesting an “independent examination” of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, “perhaps by Attorney General Bill Schuette.”

Bill Schuette? Oh, please.

Schuette’s office is on record fighting Wershe’s potential parole because he supposedly had a federal conviction for possession of gun silencers. Trouble is, they had the wrong Wershe when they cited the case to a federal judge in Grand Rapids in Wershe’s civil suit claiming his rights have been violated by no meaningful opportunity for parole.

A truly independent examination of Worthy’s stewardship of her position as prosecutor would best be served by asking a retired federal judge to conduct a thorough review. Ideally it should be a federal judge from another state, one who has not come up through the politically incestuous Michigan criminal justice system.

The chances of that happening are slim and none. I can hear it now. I’m a cranky old white reporter picking on Kym Worthy because she’s a) black, b) female or c) both of these tired old dodges.

So let’s make this call for action gender and race neutral. Let’s say there needs to be a thorough, truly independent review of potential misconduct, malfeasance and possible civil rights violations by the Wayne County prosecutor. Leave color and gender out of it. Justice is justice, regardless of those things.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Striking Similarities between the infamous Kitty Genovese Case and the Story of Rick Wershe, Jr.

For the past 62 weeks Informant America has chronicled the epic injustice of the life prison sentence for Richard J. Wershe, Jr., alias, White Boy Rick. Regular readers know this blog has exposed the law enforcement/prosecution lies and half-truths that have cost a man his entire adult life. Wershe was sentenced to life in prison for dealing drugs as a teenager but his biggest sin is that he helped the FBI prosecute drug corruption among politically powerful blacks in Detroit. The Black Caucus has fought back by doing everything possible to keep Wershe in prison until he dies. Wershe is white. Many, including Wershe himself, believe if he was black he would be out of prison by now. It can be argued that his plight makes the case that racism can be black, too.

After this post, Informant America is going to an every-other-week schedule. It is hoped that regular readers and supporters of Rick Wershe will continue to read about this continuing injustice. It is a way to keep his story alive as his fight for freedom continues.

Kitty Genovese - a victim of a murder that shocked the nation and the world (Photo: Witness documentary)

Fifty-two years ago a young woman named Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, New York, one of New York City’s five boroughs or major sections. A psychopathic stalker who liked to rape, then murder women had set his sights on Kitty Genovese as she drove home late one night from her job at a nearby bar. At first the killing rated nothing more than a “brief” buried in the March 14th, 1964 New York Times.

But famed New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal heard more about the case over lunch with the New York Police Commissioner. Rosenthal ordered an investigation that led to a front-page story on March 27, 1964 that has resonated for decades in the annals of crime as a tale of citizen apathy as a woman begging for help was murdered.

The New York Times did an investigation that was sensational--and wrong.

The Times headline read, “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call Police.” The stabbing death of Kitty Genovese was horrific, lasting over half an hour. The murderer, Winston Moseley, "...had been cruising the streets in his white Corvair, searching for a woman to mutilate," according to the Times. Moseley, it turned out, had killed before.

The late Winston Moseley - he stalked, mutilated, raped and murdered women, including Kitty Genovese.

Moseley rushed Kitty Genovese as she tried to make it from her car to her apartment building. He stabbed her in the back. She screamed for help. The Times reported the neighbors did nothing except for one neighbor who yelled out a window to leave her alone. Moseley ran back to his car and simply changed hats. Then he went looking for Kitty Genovese to finish what he started. She had staggered to the rear vestibule of her apartment building where Moseley began stabbing her again and again amid blood curdling screams as she begged for someone to intervene. As she was bleeding to death, he raped her. The New York Times said 38 people in all heard the dying woman’s screams for help but did nothing.

It was an outrageous crime story that gripped the nation and much of the world. There was just one problem: it wasn’t true.

The New York Times was guilty of the shoddiest type of fact-deficient yellow tabloid journalism but it didn’t matter. The police had done a poor job of canvassing the neighborhood and getting the real story—a case of incompetent police work passed along to the New York Times as fact—but it didn’t matter.

The notion of mass indifference to fatal human suffering within earshot was a story line that was irresistible. The competing newspapers, the TV networks, national news magazines—no one did any fact checking. After all, the story was in the mighty (some would say mighty arrogant) New York Times, the nation’s “newspaper of record.” The media competition, in classic herd journalism fashion, basically plagiarized the New York Times piece and perpetuated sloppy reporting again and again and again. Newspapers and TV stations around the country and across the world told the story as they found it in the Times. An entire neighborhood was stained with a reputation for cowardice and indifference to unspeakable violence in their midst. It wasn’t true. But it became legend. The false legend has lived on for decades.

Winston Moseley in a prison photo. He died earlier this year.

Winston Moseley was eventually arrested, tried and convicted for the murder of Kitty Genovese. Moseley died in prison earlier this year at age 81. But the other victims remained. There were the three dozen-plus people the New York Times had singled out for shame and there was Kitty Genovese’s family. Her youngest brother, William, was consumed with what had happened. Determined after her murder to fight apathy in all its forms, William Genovese joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam where he lost both his legs.

When he returned from the war, William Genovese made it his life mission to find the full truth about his sister’s murder. He tracked down his sister’s neighbors, one by one and interviewed them with the help of documentary producer James Solomon. It has taken Bill Genovese 10 years to get the story but in the process he has produced Witness, a stunning kick-in-the-gut documentary that is now showing in selected theaters around the country and receiving strong reviews.

William Genovese-murder victim's brother spent 10 years pursing the truth about the killing. He found the media-fueled legend of his sister's death was false and riddled with inaccuracies. (Photo: Wtiness documentary.)

Witness exposes the truth about the Kitty Genovese murder. The truth is that some of the neighbors did try to help, some neighbors did shout at the killer and try to scare him away, some neighbors did call the police and one neighbor, a woman who was one of Kitty Genovese’s friends, did run to her and cradled her as she lay dying.

In a recent interview with National Public Radio (NPR), the documentary producer, James Solomon, said: "The film is, in many respects, about false narratives and the impact of false narratives on our lives, how we hold stories, real or imagined, and they shape our lives. The Times story is a - the original Times story is a deeply flawed narrative..."

Which brings us to the story of the life prison sentence imposed on Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick.  Wershe and his friends understandably don’t like that media-bestowed nickname. 

In a well-intentioned mind-set they try to purge it from stories about Rick Wershe. But it helps to remember this slur on his name is a large part of the reason he is still in prison after 28 years, after everyone else in Michigan charged with a major non-violent drug crime when they were teen-agers, has been released, except Rick Wershe.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was never known on the streets as White Boy Rick. It’s true he knew many of Detroit’s major dope dealers from the 1980s thanks to his work as a paid undercover informant for the FBI. He was paid to get around. But the dopers knew him as Ricky. Just Ricky.

As explained in previous posts, the FBI quit using Rick as an informant after they got what they needed to the indict and prosecute the Curry Brothers drug organization. He had dropped out of school with no parental supervision to work full-time as a junior G-man. 

When the paid informant work stopped Wershe turned to the only trade he knew; the one law enforcement taught him. He tried to become a wholesale-level cocaine dealer.

A unit of the Detroit Police Narcotics section, a team that fancied itself the “No Crack Crew”, set its sights on Wershe at the same time they were helping the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) develop a case against the Chamber Brothers, a Detroit drug enterprise that truly was operating at the “kingpin” level.

WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 reporter Chris Hansen was embedded with (some critics say he was in bed with) the No Crack Crew before the term embedded journalist was popularized in the second Iraq war.

In July, 1987, Hansen aired a series of crowd-pleasing, ratings-busting investigative reports on the Chambers Brothers gang, aided in no small part by home videos the gang had taken of themselves bragging about their drug profits. The videos had been seized by the No Crack Crew and shared with Hansen as a reward for months of loyal service as a de facto PR man for the cop crew, documenting countless drug raids and kicked-in doors, which made for great television and a mesmerized audience.

The last of five TV reports on the Chambers drug organization featured a twist; a young white kid who was supposedly their supplier. He was identified as “White Boy Rick” a nickname the cops picked up from a true drug wholesaler who had two “Ricks” as customers and called one, who was black, Maserati Rick for the car he drove, and the other as White Boy Rick, because, well, he was white.

The evidence that Wershe ever provided the Chambers Brothers with more than a kilo or two of cocaine ranges from thin to non-existent. But by making him the finale of a series of reports on the Chambers Brothers, Wershe was to be forever linked in the minds of viewers, judges and parole board members as a supplier “kingpin” and “drug lord.” One local judge, so impressed with the sensational media coverage of Wershe, blurted out in court that he may look like Baby Face Nelson (an old-time gangster) but as far as the judge was concerned he (Wershe) was worse than a mass-murderer.

The No Crack Crew did nothing to correct the media smear of Rick Wershe. Yeah, he was another drug dealer wannabe, but he never was a Godfather of Detroit’s dope underworld. 
But the No Crack Crew basked in the glow that was cast by catching and prosecuting such a major desperado.

As Roy Grisson, one of Wershe’s black street friends from that era observes, the notion that this white teenager who couldn’t even grow a decent moustache was giving orders and calling the shots to a bunch of street-and-prison hardened adult black dope dealers doesn’t even pass the common sense test.

But that didn’t trouble Detroit’s Channel 7, the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News and every other local news organization. Like the Kitty Genovese lie, they picked up the White Boy Rick myth and ran with it. Over and over and over. There was competition to see who could find the most stunning White Boy Rick story. Never mind that the legend wasn’t true. Like the Kitty Genovese tale, the White Boy Rick saga took on a life of its own. And the White Boy Rick legend continues to haunt him to this day.

I was recently in Detroit to do more research on the White Boy Rick story for a book I am writing. I was struck over and over by the fact many people I encountered had no idea who Richard Wershe, Jr. is. But their eyes lit up with recognition when I mentioned White Boy Rick.

The lawyers can argue about which case law applies to his situation, blah, blah, blah. The truth is, no one in the criminal justice system, not judges, not prosecutors, not Parole Board members, not the Governor of the State of Michigan, wants to be the one to stick his or her neck out to give a parole to a legend known as White Boy Rick.

  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, the legend of White Boy Rick is false. 
  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, the police in the Rick Wershe case didn't get the facts straight.
  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, the Detroit news media swallowed the police line about White Boy Rick whole without doing any fact checking.
  • Like the neighbors in the Kitty Genovese case, Rick Wershe was smeared by sloppy police work and sloppy reporting.
  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, the tale of White Boy Rick quickly became an urban crime legend.
  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, it has taken years to expose the truth about White Boy Rick.  

They are very different stories but both are modern tragedies. The ordeal of Kitty Genovese is over. The ordeal of Richard Wershe, Jr. continues.