Sunday, September 25, 2016
In 2003, the Michigan Parole Board considered releasing Richard J. “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. from prison. He had been sentenced to life for a non-violent but major drug conviction while he was a teenager. One of the most devastating arguments against Wershe’s parole came in the form of a letter from then-Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan.
The man who is now the Mayor of the City of Detroit claims he “doesn’t recall” the letter to the parole board but he recently sidestepped the issue in an interview with WDIV-TV reporter Kevin Dietz, saying his “office” made a recommendation in 2003 and now it’s current prosecutor Kym Worthy’s “job to decide, in 2016, what’s appropriate.
Maybe so, but it’s Mike Duggan’s job to man up and own up to the misstatements and out and out lies in a letter under his name about a prisoner serving a life sentence. If he can defend that letter (he can’t), he should go for it. If not, he should do the right thing in the interest of justice.
The list of people who are responsible or irresponsible in the continued imprisonment of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is long. I would call them a Basket of Deplorables but that term has already been taken by someone else who has her own issues with what is true and what’s a lie. But I digress.
One of those near the top of the list is Michael Duggan, the sitting Mayor of the City of Detroit. He wrote, or his office wrote in his name, a vicious letter to the Michigan Parole Board in 2003 opposing parole for Wershe. You can read that letter here.
If it didn’t have such serious ramifications the Duggan letter would be laughable in its comic book-like claims about Wershe. Nearly every alleged statement of fact in the Duggan letter about Wershe can be challenged, if not disproven outright. Here are some examples with comic book-style bold text and exclamation points.
“Wershe’s gang!” (What gang? There are no police or court records of a Wershe gang. None. Zero.)
“Several members of Wershe’s gang were found dead!” (There was no gang. One friend of his was murdered in a romantic triangle. Duggan, current prosecutor Worthy and the Detroit Police cannot cite one, much less “several” dead bodies associated with Wershe.)
“Ruthless drug dealer!” (There’s no evidence Wershe ever operated crack houses. He tried, but failed, to become a cocaine import-wholesaler. As a white teenager in a black city Wershe didn’t have the street network—or gang—to sell crack cocaine.)
“Notorious violent kingpin!” (There is nothing in federal or state court records—nothing—to support the claim that Wershe was a “kingpin.” He was never charged or prosecuted under the “kingpin” drug laws and he was never named in any drug case involving Detroit’s true drug kingpins of that era. The “notorious violent kingpin” lie cannot be supported by anything in the record.)
“His crimes involved firearms!” (No they didn’t. Wershe’s court records don’t include any felony firearm—gun charges—period. This includes prosecutions by Duggan’s office back then, prosecutions by his predecessor, and prosecutions by his successor. It’s another lie that cannot be supported by the evidence and the court records.)
“The father (Richard Wershe, Sr.) was believed to be an electronics technician for the Mafia!” (Believed by whom? Agents of the FBI—the only law enforcement in Detroit investigating organized crime—literally laugh at this one. Wershe’s father dabbled in electronics and satellite dishes and may have done business with some questionable characters, but there is no evidence—none—that he was an associate of the Detroit Mafia family.)
“Fear of retaliation!” (There is nothing—not a single police report or court filing—to indicate Rick Wershe ever intimated any witnesses. Indeed, just the opposite is true; two key witnesses said they feared and hid from the police, not Rick Wershe. Two men have said separately that the police got rough with them when they refused to give false testimony against Wershe.)
“Menace to society!” (Wershe was never charged with a violent crime. Neither were any members of his “gang”—because he never had a gang.)
SOCK! POW! CRASH! BOOM!
As Informant America has noted in previous posts, the Duggan letter is full of inaccuracies, unsupportable accusations and outright lies.
Mike Duggan should be ashamed to have his named associated with these three pages of slander. He needs to be called out for allowing lies and distortions to be put on the record in his name.
Duggan’s name carries a lot of weight in the criminal justice system because of who he was (a big city prosecutor) and who he is (a big city mayor.) Mike Duggan needs to stand up for truth and justice. He needs to either a) publicly disavow the letter under his name to the parole board about Rick Wershe or b) call for a public hearing to air the facts, truth-and-reconciliation-style about a man who remains in prison instead of on parole partly due to the falsehoods about Rick Wershe in his letter.
I can guarantee you he won’t do “b” because he can’t. There is no evidence in police files, in prosecutor files, in court files to back up most of the 2003 letter. There is nothing in the federal court records, either.
In 2015 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from me for the files and information supporting the claims in the Duggan letter, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office famously denied my request, stating that after a “diligent search” they “certify” the “files do not exist.” They want Wershe to remain in prison until he dies but they didn’t bother to keep any evidence or documentation to support that position if called upon by a court to do so.
The Detroit Police Department, in response to another Freedom of Information Act request, told me they had purged all of their files on Richard J. Wershe, Jr. except for a single file card that said he was convicted in Recorder’s Court on a charge of possession of cocaine over 650 grams and that he was sentenced to life in prison.
A recent Freedom of Information Act request from me shows Duggan doesn’t think he has anything to worry about in terms of a besmirched reputation due to the three pages of Duggan-letter falsehoods against Rick Wershe still floating around as a prosecution exhibit in the effort to deny Wershe a parole.
The City Law Department says there are no internal memos, emails or any other communications between Duggan and his administration regarding the Wershe controversy. It was and is an ugly stain on Duggan’s reputation for honesty and truthfulness but it’s not on his radar screen.
In the Wershe saga the Wayne County Prosecutor has been in the spotlight. The police have been in the spotlight. The state appellate courts have been in the spotlight. The federal courts have been in the spotlight. The Michigan Parole Board has been in the spotlight. Almost everyone in this epic miscarriage of justice has been in the spotlight except Mike Duggan. It’s his turn.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Today is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. It was an apocalyptic day in American history. For Richard J. Wershe, Jr., every day is apocalyptic. It’s another day of his life that has slipped away due to political retribution.
For Rick Wershe, the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on this country is just another day behind bars as a political prisoner, the victim of a vendetta by a corrupt political and prosecutorial machine.
It can be argued that no other Michigan prison inmate has received as much local and even national media attention and outside-of-Michigan puzzlement over why this guy is still behind bars for a non-violent drug conviction in a case prosecuted when he was a teenager.
Yet, “the system” won’t budge on granting Wershe parole. It’s not about his crime. Informant America has shown over and over and over in past months that the punishment in the Wershe case doesn’t fit the crime. His case is deeper than that. He embarrassed powerful people. He exposed corruption in Detroit black power politics. He cost powerful people a lot of money. That is why Rick Wershe remains in prison.
There’s a long list of people of power who should feel shame over the Wershe case:
- Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
- Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
- Michigan Court of Appeals Chief Judge Michael Talbot
- The entire Michigan Supreme Court
- U.S. District Court judge Gordon Quist
- The federal narcs and Detroit cops who falsely conned the news media into believing Wershe was a “drug lord” and “kingpin.”
What the puzzled—shall we call them the puzzlerati?—don’t understand is the power dynamic of politics in Detroit and Michigan. Even lifelong residents of Michigan may not understand how power really works in the Great Lakes State.
Power politics in Michigan is about black and white—as in race. But it’s not as simple as black and white.
Black political power resides in Detroit—and stops at Eight Mile Road. White political power in Michigan is mostly rural and “outstate.” It, too, stops at Eight Mile Road. The two racially divided political factions are, by default, at odds with one another, but sometimes they accommodate one another.
Such is the case with Rick Wershe. The Michigan white political faction loves to appear tough on crime. It’s a crowd-pleaser at election time. Most of “outstate” Michigan regards Detroit as a cesspool of crime and depravity. So if the black political faction wants some guy to rot in prison, the white political faction is only too happy to oblige and look the other way regarding facts and truth. Sacrificing one white guy to appease Detroit’s black politicians who are hell-bent on revenge is an easy political choice for politicians and judges outside of Wayne County. It's an easy favor to "them."
|Coleman A. Young - It started with him.|
The split power equation in Michigan politics goes back to the mayoral regime of Coleman A. Young, Detroit’s first black mayor. He gets the credit or the blame, depending on how you look at it.
When Young won the mayoral contest in 1973, it was the passing of political power in Detroit from whites to blacks and Young knew it. He also understood how power politics works. He had studied and admired the enormous power wielded by Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley. Daley was white but that didn’t matter to Young. Daley had enormous power and that did matter to Young. Coleman Young understood that power is, well, power. He also understood the value of political loyalty as part of the power equation. Thus, Young allowed public corruption to fester all around him. He let his key loyalists loot the city treasury, rob the citizens, as long as they remained loyal to him in all things political.
There are plenty of whites who fed at the Coleman Young corruption trough, too. As I said above, it’s not as simple as black and white.
The black political machine of Detroit wants Wershe to rot in prison until he dies for helping the detested and despised FBI expose and prosecute drug corruption in the Detroit Police Department—Coleman Young’s police department. Wershe was 14 when the FBI recruited him because he lived in the city and knew the wrong people. For roughly two years young Rick Wershe was a secret FBI informant who told on the Curry Brothers, a major east side drug gang with family ties to Mayor Young. The mayor eventually discovered Wershe’s secret role. Young hated FBI "stool pigeons" and Rick Wershe was no exception. People around Young knew how he felt about Rick Wershe.
Wershe also told the FBI about Detroit Police Homicide Inspector Gil Hill, who Johnnie Curry bribed to make the investigation of the murder of a 13-year old boy go away. Curry’s gang had inadvertently killed the boy in a money dispute with the child’s uncle.
The FBI stayed on Hill’s trail for years but never accumulated enough evidence for a slam-dunk conviction. That’s what’s needed if you are going to successfully prosecute a onetime movie star and community hero like Gil Hill, who went on to win election to the Detroit City Council and eventually became its president.
Gil Hill, who died earlier this year without facing prosecution, knew Rick Wershe was the source of his behind-the-scenes torment by the FBI and he never forgot it. When Wershe came up for a parole hearing in 2003, Hill pulled out all the stops, called in a bunch of IOUs, and rigged the hearing to bury Wershe alive.
One of the smears against Wershe was a letter to the parole board written by then-prosecutor Michael Duggan. The letter is full of falsehoods and blatant distortions of the court record in Wershe’s case. The letter said Wershe is a menace to society.
The previous post on Informant America was the complete text of my sworn affidavit to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which I submitted recently as part of a long civil rights court struggle Wershe and his lawyer Ralph Musilli are waging over the issue of parole and whether Wershe has ever had a fair and meaningful chance at one. (See Vince Wade’s sworn affidavitregarding Richard J. Wershe, Jr., aka White Boy Rick.) The affidavit challenges—with provable facts—the crock of crap in the Duggan letter to the parole board about Wershe.
I took it upon myself to bring this to the appeals court’s attention because someone needs to expose the lies and slander in the Mike Duggan letter, which has been used repeatedly by the Michigan Attorney General as an “exhibit” in court in arguing that Wershe should remain behind bars. That letter has far more influence than the other “evidence” against the inmate known in the media as White Boy Rick. The letter was written by a politician who is now the mayor of the City of Detroit. In the court system, that carries weight.
A parole board member from western Michigan may not know who Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is, or even know the name White Boy Rick. But that member knows who Mike Duggan is.
A federal judge in Grand Rapids may not know who Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is, or even know the name White Boy Rick. But that judge knows who Mike Duggan is.
Mayor Duggan has been able to dodge and duck the Wershe controversy for far too long. He played a major role in keeping Wershe in prison to this day. Duggan needs to be held accountable—today.
Readers of Detroit’s two main newspapers—the Free Press and Detroit News—might conclude Informant America is off the deep end in crusading for the parole of Rick Wershe, and that the blog is wrong in claiming widespread systemic corruption is at work in keeping him behind bars. As far as readers of those papers know, the criminal justice “system” in Michigan is just fine.
That’s not the view beyond the rose-colored windows of the Free Press and News.
One of the editorials in today’s—9/11/2016—edition of the New York Times is headlined, “Michigan Prosecutors Defy the Supreme Court.”
The editorial begins with a question: “Why are Michigan’s prosecutors ignoring the Supreme Court?” The editorial explores the dig-in-their-heels resistance of Michigan prosecutors, Kym Worthy of Wayne County and Jessica Cooper of Oakland County in particular, in refusing to follow U.S. Supreme Court dictates that juveniles convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole be re-sentenced and given the chance for parole.
The Times’ editorial board apparently doesn’t understand Michigan’s prosecutors are largely a bunch of vote-grubbing lawyers who see “tough-on-crime” as an easy way to win re-election and keep feeding at the public trough for their pay. Most voters have no clue whether their county prosecutor is doing a good job—a fair job—and it shows in the continued re-election of these “tough on crime” champions of justice, or more accurately, champions of punishment.
As the Times editorial notes, "...young people are biologically and psychologically different from adults. They are more impulsive and more prone to change as their brains continue to develop.
“When it comes to driving, voting and buying alcohol, society recognizes these realities; so should the criminal justice system."
Rick Wershe was 17 when he was arrested, 18 when he was sent to prison for life. At age 47 Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is not Ricky Wershe, he's not White Boy Rick, the cocky young kid who went down the wrong road.
Kym Worthy knows this. Bill Schuette knows this. Mike Duggan knows this. The appellate court judges know this. But the continued imprisonment of the man the media likes to slander as White Boy Rick isn’t about rehabilitation and correction. It’s about corrupt politicians and a corrupt state criminal justice system continuing a vendetta in behalf of a couple of dead black politicians who wanted revenge—and got it.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
This is a “special edition” of the Informant America blog.
This week I submitted a sworn affidavit to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio regarding my detailed investigation into errors, distortions and outright lies in front of the Michigan Parole Board in Rick Wershe’s one and only parole hearing in 2003. I am working on a book about Rick Wershe and the “War on Drugs” and I have reviewed the court record in the Wershe case. Through considerable and persistent effort, I have obtained copies of the transcripts of the testimony, statements, legal motions and arguments on the court record in the Wershe drug case and I have conducted interviews with some of the key figures, including eyewitnesses. Some key figures are deceased.
|The U.S. 6th Court of Appeals Building-Cincinnati, Ohio. Rick Wershe's parole from a life prison sentence may be decided here.|
For those who don’t know, Wershe has a federal civil rights lawsuit going against the Michigan Parole Board for violation of his Eighth Amendment rights regarding cruel and unusual punishment. Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s attorney, argues it is unusual punishment to keep Wershe in prison serving a life term when the Parole Board has released every other Michigan prison inmate similarly charged. That is, they were juveniles when they were sentenced and their conviction involved a non-violent drug offense. That describes Rick Wershe. The Michigan Parole Board has released every prisoner incarcerated under those parameters; everyone except Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
There was a lot of deception and mendacity in Wershe’s 2003 parole hearing but one of the striking elements was a letter submitted by then-Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan who is now the Mayor of the City of Detroit. That letter is full of invective and hyperbole (nastiness and vigorous stretching of the truth) and it calls Rick Wershe “a menace to society.” The State of Michigan keeps including the Duggan letter in their filings with the federal courts as an attached exhibit to prove their side of the case. The letter has been cited several times by the Michigan Attorney General’s office in the Wershe civil rights lawsuit as “facts” the Parole Board relied upon. Thus, according to the Attorney General, the Parole Board gave Wershe a “fair” hearing.
In a word: bullshit.
The Duggan letter is packed with falsehoods, misstatements of the court record in Wershe’s case and unsupportable claims masquerading as facts. I can prove it. I’m ready to do so.
The judges and lawyers in this lawsuit keep arguing in never-ending circles about which established case law applies. Yet all sides seem to agree the issue is whether Wershe got a “fair” parole hearing. I contend he did not. And I contend the courts cannot resolve the matter without taking the time and trouble to re-visit the details of that 2003 hearing. So far, they have not. They cannot settle an issue of fact by arguing about the law. My affidavit urges the Court of Appeals to order a full inquiry regarding that parole hearing, complete with discovery, documents and witness testimony.
My affidavit was sworn to before a notary public, which is standard practice. It tells the court I am making the statements in the affidavit under oath regarding the truthfulness of the contents. What follows is an exact copy. The actual notarized affidavit went to the court.
No one asked me to do this. No one suggested it. In fact, it is highly unusual for a third party, particularly a reporter-type, to stick his nose in to an ongoing lawsuit. But in the Wershe saga I have traded my standard reporter coat and tie for the shirtsleeve garb of an old-fashioned muckraking crusading journalist of a century ago. That allows me to spout opinions and raise some hell.
As I noted in my cover letter to the Court of Appeals, “Mr. Wershe is serving a life sentence and he has been denied fair consideration for parole based, to a considerable degree, upon misstatements and falsehoods that can and should be challenged regarding his reputation as a major drug dealer and menace to society.”
As I noted in my cover letter to the Court of Appeals, “Mr. Wershe is serving a life sentence and he has been denied fair consideration for parole based, to a considerable degree, upon misstatements and falsehoods that can and should be challenged regarding his reputation as a major drug dealer and menace to society.”
To follow is the affidavit in its entirety, exactly as it was submitted to the Court of Appeals. You can download a PDF copy here. You also can download a copy of the infamous Duggan letter to the Michigan Parole Board here.
I encourage you to make a copy of the Duggan letter and make a copy of my affidavit and compare them, paragraph by paragraph. You don’t have to be Perry Mason or Vinny Gambini (My Cousin Vinny) or even Ally McBeal to figure out there’s something terribly wrong with what the cops and prosecutors have said for 28 years about Rick Wershe:
Affidavit of Vince Wade
In Re: Richard J. Wershe, Jr. Michigan Department of Corrections Parole Hearing, March 27, 2003.
State of California )
County of Orange )
I, Vince Wade, hereby swear that the following statements are true to the best of my knowledge, information and belief:
1. I am a reporter and television documentary producer/director with over 40 years of experience in print, radio and television journalism.
2. I have received some 20 professional awards for my work, including three (3) Emmys and the 1st Place award for best local TV news documentary at the New York and San Francisco International Film Festivals.
3. I was an on-air investigative reporter, anchor and special projects producer for WXYZ-TV and WJBK-TV, both in Detroit, Michigan from 1972 through 1996.
4. I am currently researching and writing a non-fiction book about what is known commonly as the War on Drugs, using the case of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. extensively as a focal point to illustrate various issues on the subject, particularly the use of confidential informants.
5. I have reviewed and researched the testimony, statements and documents submitted in the parole hearing for Richard J. Wershe, Jr. on March 27, 2003.
6. I have discovered serious errors and mischaracterizations presented to the Michigan Parole Board as fact in the 2003 parole hearing for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
Significant elements of the damaging testimony and documentation presented to the Parole Board during the Wershe hearing can be challenged and refuted through discovery and sworn testimony.
7. I have researched the allegations and accusations contained in a February 17, 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board purportedly written by then-Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan in support of denial of a parole for Mr. Wershe. That letter has been cited by the Michigan Attorney General’s office in several filings with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan and with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Through a spokesman, Mr. Duggan has stated that he has no recollection of writing the letter. Thus, there is a question as to whether someone else in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office wrote the letter and submitted it to the Michigan Parole Board under Mr. Duggan’s name.
8. The purported Duggan letter states: “When the police attempted to arrest him, he (Wershe) belligerently fought with the officers and assaulted them.” There was a scuffle, in fact there were several scuffles involving various individuals at the arrest scene, but Wershe was never charged with assaulting a police officer. In truth, after his arrest Mr. Wershe was not taken to jail but he was taken instead to a Detroit hospital for treatment of injuries, including a broken eye socket, sustained in a beating by Detroit Police officers while he was handcuffed, on the ground and in custody.
9. The purported Duggan letter states: “Wershe had 17.5 pounds or approximately 8 kilos of cocaine that was taken to the next door neighbor's house by David Golly, and placed under their porch.” This one sentence in the purported Duggan letter contains multiple errors and misstatements of the official court record in the Wershe case. Discovery and witness testimony would show Wershe never “had” the cocaine at the time of his arrest. There is no testimony that there was cocaine in the vehicle in which Mr. Wershe was a passenger when the vehicle was stopped by the police.
Wershe’s fingerprints and palm prints were not on the box of cocaine confiscated by the police as part of his arrest. The court record clearly shows the box was not “…taken to the next door neighbor’s house…” Wershe was stopped by the police on Hampshire St. in Detroit. The 17.5 pounds of cocaine was later found under the porch of a home on Camden Ave., a block away from the police stop.
Furthermore, a review of the testimony of David Golly in Mr. Wershe’s preliminary examination would show Mr. Golly never handled the box and never placed it under a porch. Mr. Golly spotted the box under the porch of a neighbor named Story—“I saw a box up under the porch”—and another man known as “Moosey” retrieved the box and brought it in the Story house—“Mr. Story asked him to bring it in the house...in to his son’s bedroom.” The preceding quotes are from the official preliminary exam court record. Mr. Golly observed certain events but did not handle the “box” as described in the purported Duggan letter to the Michigan Parole Board, nor did he see Wershe with the box at any time. The letter does not accurately reflect the official court record on this issue.
10. The purported Duggan letter states: "From the records, it appears that Wershe's gang and the police were contemporaneously looking for the cocaine up and down the street, both trying to find it first." There is nothing in the testimony in the Wershe case or in court documents to substantiate the statement that Wershe had a “gang” as the term is commonly used in law enforcement. No one has ever been charged as an associate or member of a Wershe “gang.” No Wershe “gang” member was arrested or detained or taken in to custody at the time of his arrest.
11. The purported Duggan letter states: “Wershe had the unmitigated gall and audacity to go right out again to engage in a drug deal involving 5 more kilos of cocaine.” The purported Duggan letter fails to inform the Parole Board that this case, which was filed some five months after Wershe’s May, 1987 arrest, was dismissed at the preliminary exam stage due to questions of possibly planted evidence and an improper search warrant.
12. The purported Duggan letter states: "Several of Wershe's gang members were found dead." As noted in paragraph 10, there is nothing in any federal or state court records to indicate anyone was ever identified or charged as Wershe “gang members.” Furthermore, former Detroit Police Homicide Inspector William Rice, who has submitted a sworn affidavit in regard to the Wershe parole hearing, states Wershe’s name “never came up” in any homicide investigations while he was in charge of the Detroit Police Homicide unit, which encompassed the time up to Mr. Wershe’s incarceration in state prison. If any homicide victim had been associated with Wershe, Rice would have been aware of that fact. One of Wershe’s associates was murdered but that was as the result of a romantic triangle and was not related to narcotics trafficking. Thus, there is no evidence to support the implied drug violence in the allegation that “several of Wershe’s gang members were found dead.”
13. The purported Duggan letter states: "Witnesses in inmate Wershe's case just disappeared." This statement is a gross distortion of the truth. Witness David Golly, for example, did disappear after Mr. Wershe’s preliminary examination and failed to appear to testify at Mr. Wershe’s trial. But Mr. Golly has since stated in a sworn affidavit that he was hiding from the police and not out of fear of Mr. Wershe. Mr. Golly claims prior to the Wershe preliminary examination, four police officers took him to a downtown Detroit hotel where they pressured and intimated him. Golly states one officer told him "...Rick is goin' down. We got him where we want him and you goin' help us get him there." Golly said he refused and was roughed up. "He told me that he wanted me to testify against him. I told him no and he smacked me upside my head and said, 'Yes, you is…”
14. The purported Duggan letter states: "Inmate Wershe is precisely the kind of drug dealer, gang leader, notorious violent kingpin that the over 650 g of controlled substances-lifer law was written for, and meant to punish."
In truth, a fair and honest inquiry will show Wershe has never been tried or convicted for any violent crime. Furthermore, there is not a single shred of evidence to support the “kingpin” slur against Wershe. He has never been charged in federal or state court with conspiracy. He has never been charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise. He has never been named as a co-conspirator or unindicted co-conspirator. His name was never mentioned during the course of any of the major drug trafficking trials in the federal and state criminal courts in Detroit or any other venue during the era when Mr. Wershe was on the streets.
15. The purported Duggan letter states: "Wershe's violent collateral crimes and the sheer volume of controlled substances that were introduced to the City of Detroit confirm that Wershe is a serious danger to the People of the City of Detroit and all of Southeastern Michigan, in particular." As I stated previously Wershe has never been arrested for, or charged with, any “violent collateral crimes” and in a full inquiry the Michigan Attorney General’s office and the Wayne County Prosecutor would be forced to admit this is a totally false accusation by the former Wayne County Prosecutor.
16. The purported Duggan letter states: "Wershe profited from the countless drug sales that his gang made, and the criminal enterprise that he built..." There are no court records—local or federal—to indicate Mr. Wershe had a gang that made “countless” drug sales and as noted previously Wershe has never been charged with operating or participating in a continuing criminal enterprise.
17. The purported Duggan letter states: "I have been contacted by many people including law enforcement officers from both the federal and state levels that are currently unwilling to publicly oppose Wershe's release for fear of retaliation against them, their families, and continue to be fearful that Wershe would even be considered for release." The only witness intimidation I have found in my inquiry into the Wershe 2003 parole hearing is alleged to have been perpetrated by police officers.
I have not found any evidence to indicate the Michigan Parole Board made any effort to work with prosecutors to obtain confidential testimony from any implied intimidated witness, including law enforcement officers who allegedly fear for their safety and the safety of their families if they testify about Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
18. I submitted a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request to current Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on February 6, 2015, requesting copies of any and all documentation supporting the claims and assertions contained in the purported 2003 Duggan letter to the Michigan Parole board. In a response dated February 10, 2015, to my FOIA request for documentation supporting the purported Duggan letter, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office advised me: "Your request is denied. After a diligent search for the records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist."
19. I have discovered in my research that some law enforcement documentation submitted at the Wershe 2003 parole hearing is, in some cases, highly misleading and in other cases false. For example, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Richard Crock submitted to the Parole Board a report of a statement from a confidential informant claiming Richard J. Wershe, Jr. sold weapons to an associate of the notorious Chambers Brothers drug gang. The Chambers Brothers gang was tried and convicted in federal court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Agent Crock neglected to tell the Parole Board that the DEA confidential informant—Terry Colbert—whose statement to the DEA was provided to the Michigan Parole Board during the Wershe 2003 parole hearing, was indicted and convicted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit for repeated perjury before a federal grand jury and at trial. (See 977 F.2d 203 No. 91-2057) Colbert was indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced on July 31, 1991 and DEA records indicate Agent Crock was fully aware of this fact at the time, yet failed to mention it to the Parole Board in 2003.
20. I have discovered in my research that another DEA investigative report submitted to the Michigan Parole Board in the 2003 Wershe hearing claims Roy Grisson, a Wershe associate, was shot and seriously wounded in an attempted murder ordered by Mr. Wershe. The DEA-6 report about Mr. Grisson indicates he supplied Agent Crock and other investigators with information about the drug activities of the so-called Wershe organization. In interviews, Mr. Grisson told me the shooting was the result of a plain armed robbery attempt and had nothing to do with Mr. Wershe. Furthermore, Mr. Grisson states he was kidnapped from the hospital by law enforcement officers as he was recovering from his wounds and taken to a suburban motel where he was “sweated” and “pressured” to make false statements against Wershe. When he refused Mr. Grisson states the police put him in a van and drove him to downtown Detroit where they “dumped” him in front of a retail store. Mr. Grisson has told me any statement in the DEA files purportedly signed by him is a false document with a forged signature and he is prepared to testify under oath to the truthfulness of this claim if called upon to do so.
21. I have noted in my research that with the exception of Special Agent Crock of the DEA, not one of the law enforcement officers testifying against Wershe’s parole ever had any contact with him in their police work.
22. I have read a sworn affidavit by William Rice, the former head of the Homicide unit of the Detroit Police Department, that he was ordered “through channels” to testify against Wershe. Rice further stated he was provided with Wershe’s federal grand jury testimony as part of a briefing binder to help him prepare to testify at the Wershe parole hearing. I have spoken directly with U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn of the Eastern District of Michigan who told me he has never unsealed Wershe’s federal grand jury testimony. Thus it would appear that someone committed a felony in releasing sealed federal grand jury testimony to prepare witnesses to testify against Richard J. Wershe, Jr. at the 2003 hearing. I have not been able to find any evidence this serious violation has ever been investigated.
23. I have noted in my research that three (3) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents testified in favor of Wershe’s parole while two (2) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents testified against his parole, yet the Michigan Parole Board asked no questions and made no effort to reconcile this direct contradiction between the views of federal law enforcement agents regarding the advisability of parole for Wershe.
24. I have noted in my research that contrary to claims by the Wayne County Prosecutor that Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was a drug “kingpin”, several convicted major drug dealers who were actively selling drugs in Detroit during the time Mr. Wershe was on the streets have stated on the record to other reporters and to me that Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was never a major drug trafficker or “kingpin.” One Detroit drug figure from that era responded to a question from me about Wershe’s “kingpin” status by posing two rhetorical questions:
· “Does it make any sense to think a white teenager was giving drug trafficking orders to violent adult black men with prison records?
· And does it make any sense to think a white teenager could possess, control and distribute millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine in Detroit’s black drug trade without getting killed?”
I make this affidavit on my own volition without any remuneration or promises from anyone. If called to testify I would state under oath that the foregoing information is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO before this ___ day of ______, 2016 by
Notary Public – California
My Commission expires:______________
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has decided, at long last, that maybe, perhaps, she should take a second look at parole for Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe, Jr. who is serving a life prison term for a non-violent drug conviction when he was a teenager. Wershe is no ordinary doper. He was a secret teen informant for the FBI, and he told on some very politically connected people who were profiting from the Detroit drug trade. Worthy has fought ferociously to keep Wershe in prison even though opinions among many in law enforcement and the general public, have changed about Wershe. What did she say about parole for Wershe and what’s next?
There’s a tradition in Corporate America known as the Friday Afternoon Bad News Drop. Publicly traded corporations learned years ago that it is often advantageous to release bad news late on a Friday afternoon. The traditional Bad News Drop occurs after the stock market has closed for the weekend, investors have their attention focused on two days off and newsrooms are sparsely staffed because the Saturday edition is always the smallest edition of the paper with the fewest pages and the fewest reporters to fill them. Corporate PR flacks understand bad news is likely to get the least attention and the least news coverage if it’s released late on a Friday.
We don’t know if that thinking was a part of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s decision this past Friday afternoon to drop a bombshell about her possible willingness to consider parole for Richard Wershe, Jr., known in the media as White Boy Rick.
|Kym Worthy - Wayne County Prosecutor (Photo: Al Goldis, AP)|
She issued a written statement which said: "Having been immersed in the Juvenile Life Without Parole Murder cases for the last six months, I have noted parallels to the Richard Wershe case that have caused me to review the office position in his case," Worthy said in her statement. "However, it is important to note that only the Michigan Parole Board determines who does or doesn't receive parole.”
Let’s explore the background and what may happen next.
Worthy has taken a lot of heat in recent months, some of it from the Informant America blog, about her hard ass attitude about Wershe and others convicted as juveniles.
In 2010, Essence, a monthly magazine for African American women, did a lengthy profile of Worthy and labeled her “The Toughest Woman In Detroit.” It seems to have gone to Prosecutor Worthy’s head. She has a magazine headline reputation to maintain.
|The Prosecutor seems to enjoy her rep.|
Not long ago Prosecutor Worthy captured national headlines—of the worst sort—for the wrongful imprisonment of Devontae Sanford, a developmentally-challenged young man who was prosecuted by Worthy’s office and sentenced to prison for a quadruple murder he didn’t commit. An admitted hitman, himself in prison, came forward and said, several times, he was the killer, not Sanford. Worthy was having none of it until a wrongful imprisonment advocacy group took up the Sanford case and more or less forced a new investigation. Worthy reluctantly went along with releasing Devontae Sanford after he had spent eight years in prison.
While all of this was going Worthy and the rest of Michigan’s county prosecutors were working to review cases where inmates who were sent to prison as juveniles for murder were reconsidered under a directive from the U.S. Supreme Court that those sentenced to life in their teens should be re-sentenced except in rare and unusual cases.
Next came a scathing report by the Harvard University Law School’s Fair Punishment Project singling Worthy out among the nation’s 2,300 county prosecutors as “an extreme outlier” on the issue of juvenile sentencing.
|Cover of Harvard Law School report on Kym Worthy and Juvenile Justice|
The Harvard Law School, arguably the nation’s most prestigious law school, singled Worthy out alone among the nation’s prosecutors for persisting in wanting inmates sentenced when they were teens to spend their entire lives behind bars.
The Detroit news media didn’t do much with the Harvard report on Worthy but an Informant America blog post was devoted to it. That post hit a nerve. It has had over 25,000 unique page views. That’s quite a few for a niche blog that isn’t marketed to the search engines. It means 25,000 Internet surfers heard about it and sought it out to read. Did someone among all those readers have influence on Worthy? Did she get heat from the judges and lawyers of Detroit for being singled out as a prosecutorial oddity on juvenile crime cases? Did some string-pulling political pooh-bah whisper in her ear that now is the time to back off the Wershe parole issue? We don’t know and she’s not about to tell us.
So what’s next for Rick Wershe? Good question. No one knows, for now.
His next parole review is scheduled for December, 2017, over a year from now. The Michigan Parole Board, which is responsible to no one except Gov. Snyder, who has absolutely zero interest in prison and corrections matters, can do whatever it chooses. The board can vote at any time to bring an inmate’s case up for review. They don’t have to follow the schedule if they don’t want to. They are the ones who make up the schedule, anyway.
Let’s go back and look carefully at what Kym Worthy said Friday. She said in reviewing the Juvenile Life Without Parole Murder cases she noted “parallels to the Richard Wershe case.” She carefully said those parallels “have caused me to review the office position in his case.” She didn’t say she won’t oppose his release on parole. She didn’t say she favors his release. She only said she has reviewed her office's position on his case, whatever that means. Presumably, it means if the Parole Board or someone else takes the initiative to free Rick Wershe, she may go along with it. Kym Worthy sure as hell doesn’t want to advocate his parole, not after all these months of stubbornly and foolishly fighting to keep him in prison. That would be too much crow to eat at one sitting.
The State of Michigan may take the initiative to cut its losses on Wershe due to a lawsuit in federal court. Wershe has a civil rights lawsuit going against the Michigan Parole Board for failing to provide him with a fair parole hearing. Readers of Informant America know there are plenty of reasons to question the kangaroo-court quality of Wershe’s one and only parole hearing in 2003.
Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s long-battling attorney, knows it, too. A federal judge in Grand Rapids tried to dismiss Wershe’s lawsuit but the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said, not so fast.
Wershe’s civil rights case is now before the appeals court and Musilli has asked for oral arguments, a request that is usually granted. The Michigan Attorney General’s office, representing the state parole board, filed a reply last month that essentially says, “Us, too. We want oral arguments, too.” If they didn’t do that it might have left Musilli in court alone to answer questions from the bench.
Up to now, the lawyers on both sides and the various judges who've been involved in the Wershe soap opera have been engaged in a never-ending circular argument over which case law applies. “Graham applies!” “No, it doesn’t!” “Yes, it does!” “No, it doesn’t.” This has gone on over and over and over. And it has gone nowhere.
In the state’s pleadings in the federal lawsuit the Attorney General keeps including an extremely harsh letter purportedly written by then-Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan, now the Mayor of the City of Detroit. That letter, on its face, is a summary of Rick Wershe’s life of crime. It flat-out calls him a menace to society.
|The purported Mike Duggan letter about parole for Rick Wershe is astonishingly harsh.|
For judges who are unfamiliar with the White Boy Rick saga that letter, which Duggan says he doesn’t remember, is the primary recitation of "facts" about Wershe to consider in terms of their willingness to give him a break. All of the court machinations to now have been about the "law" and not about the "facts" of whether Wershe is or isn't a menace to society. The court system has gone to great lengths to avoid a re-examination of factual assertions in the Wershe case, even though there are numerous questionable "facts" in the Duggan letter. They keep wanting to re-hash case law when it's Wershe's reputation as a drug "kingpin" that is keeping him behind bars.
The oral arguments before the federal court of appeals can be an opportunity for Musilli to finally challenge the Duggan letter before a panel of judges who can order a hearing regarding the truth or falsity of the claims about Wershe’s life of crime. If they order a full hearing with court-ordered discovery of evidence and maybe even testimony from witnesses, watch out. The Michigan Attorney General and the Wayne County Prosecutor will suddenly find themselves struggling to climb uphill on a very steep incline.
If the lawyers in the Attorney General’s office have any sense—this is assuming a fact not in evidence, as they say in court—they will realize they could find themselves in a deep hole in such a hearing. If that risk dawns on them the powers-that-be in Lansing may decide Rick Wershe needs an expedited parole hearing in order to get him out of the system and avoid high profile embarrassment for going to such lengths to punish a drug kingpin who never was.
Rick Wershe can hope.