Sunday, August 14, 2016

Does anyone in power have the guts to do right by Rick Wershe?

People famous and not-so-famous are getting released from prison left and right. But not Rick Wershe, Jr. He’s been behind bars for over 28 years. Drug underworld murderers don’t serve that much time. Do any of Michigan’s criminal justice “leaders” have the guts to step up and emphasize the word “justice” in criminal justice? Not so far. Do any of the federal agencies which used him callously as a juvenile informant believe they have an obligation to a man who helped them put major drug dealers and corrupt cops behind bars? Apparently not.

Shortened prison terms have been in the news lately, sandwiched in between the latest Barnum and Bailey stunts and showboating in our nation’s pathetic ordeal of selecting a new leader.

John Hinckley, Jr.-would-be presidential assassin


John Hinckley, Jr., the man who tried to murder President Ronald Reagan, was released from custody in early August. His case was reevaluated and psychiatric “experts” proclaimed Hinckley is no longer a threat to society or himself.

Last week, President Barack Obama shortened the prison sentences for 214 more drug dealers serving time in federal prisons. Obama hopes to pardon or commute the sentences of another 1,300 federal inmates before he leaves office.

Rick Wershe, Jr. displays some of his art work completed in prison.


Yesterday, I spoke by phone with Rick Wershe, Jr. in a call from the prison where he spends his days:

Me: “What’s new with you, Rick?”
Rick Wershe, Jr: “Nothin’.”

That’s precisely the problem. No one in the Michigan criminal justice system or the federal justice system has the interest or the compassion to do anything about the life sentence of a man who one former FBI agent described as the most valuable informant the Detroit Division of the FBI had in that era terms of the drug trade.

No one currently in a position of authority in federal law enforcement shows the least bit of interest in helping a guy who helped them in a major way back in the 80s. The lazy, self-serving rationalization taking place on the 26th floor of the McNamara Federal Building (Detroit’s FBI office) and in the U.S. Attorney’s office a few blocks away goes something like this:

Hey, that was a long time ago. That’s too bad about Wershe, but he’s not our problem. We only care about pending investigations, indictments and trials, cases that can help us advance our careers today.

At the local and state level it isn’t about the past. It’s about keeping the flame. In this case the “flame” is a vendetta started by Detroit’s late mayor Coleman Young and City Council President Gil Hill.

Together and separately, they had their reasons for wanting Richard J. Wershe, Jr. to die in prison.

From 1984 until sometime in 1986, Rick Wershe was a paid teen informant for the FBI who helped the Bureau and the Justice Department successfully prosecute the Curry Brothers, a politically connected dope gang with ties by marriage to Mayor Young.

Even after he went to prison on a life sentence for drugs, Wershe continued to help the FBI pursue drug corruption in Detroit.

Nearly a dozen cops were nabbed in an FBI undercover sting operation in which they were providing “police protection” for what they believed were drug and cash shipments by men they thought were part of the Miami drug smuggling underworld. It turns out the dopers were undercover FBI agents.

That FBI sting operation was possible because of introductions made by Wershe while he was in Marquette State Prison.

Cathy Volsan Curry-FBI Surveillance photo


Cathy Volsan Curry, Mayor Young’s favorite niece, had had an affair with Wershe just before he went to prison. Wershe was able to contact her to get the undercover sting started. Cathy Volsan Curry brought in her drug-dealing father, Willie Clyde Volsan, the mayor’s brother-in-law.

Willie Clyde Volsan-convicted drug dealer, father of Cathy Volsan  Curry, brother-in-law of  Coleman Young (FBI surveillance photo)



Willie Volsan, in turn, brought in cops willing to be bought to protect drugs and drug cash.


Detroit city councilman Gil Hill, Willie Volsan (back to camera), former Sgt. James Harris, Detroit Police Department (FBI surveillance photo)



Volsan also brought in one of his political pals; Detroit city councilman Gil Hill, an ex-cop. The FBI set up undercover meetings with Hill who backed out at the last minute and thus avoided being indicted.

Coleman Young, left, Willie Volsan, right (Detroit Free Press photo, FBI Surveillance photo)




Thus, Richard J. Wershe, Jr. made enemies of the two most powerful men in Detroit black politics: Coleman Young and Gil Hill.

Detroit’s black political machine was outraged that a teenage Detroit kid—a WHITE Detroit kid—had been able to get close to the corruption in their empire and to help the equally detested FBI go after them.

Racial politics is a part of the Rick Wershe story. He’s white. The people who are waging a lifelong vendetta against him are black—mostly. So far the black political machine is winning, with the help of cowardly whites in the criminal justice system who are too afraid to stand up for what’s right when it might cost them votes in the City of Detroit, which is over 84 percent black and still the largest city in Michigan.

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



Informant America has made the argument repeatedly that Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is a stooge of Detroit’s black political machine. She came up through it. She owes her career to it. We don’t know if black racism toward Wershe is part of her ceaseless campaign to keep him in prison. We don’t know if she’s helping the late Gil Hill maintain a vendetta from the grave because of a close past personal relationship between them. We don’t know if it’s because she wallows in her reputation as the toughest woman in Detroit. All we know is she has spent considerable taxpayer money in terms of staff time and resources fighting to keep Wershe in prison long after murderers sent to jail by her office have been set free without resistance from Worthy.

But there are others who need a close look.

Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit-he can't remember a letter he supposedly wrote



There’s Detroit’s white mayor, Mike Duggan, who allegedly wrote a hellfire-and-brimstone letter to the Michigan Parole Board stating Wershe was a menace to society who deserves to die in prison. Duggan conveniently claims he “doesn’t recall” writing such a letter. It’s a modern-day version of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of the matter of this man’s fate.

Michael Talbot-Michigan Court of Appeals (Photo: David Coates, Detroit News)



There’s Michigan Court of Appeals Michael Talbot who has a long-standing reputation as a bully and judicial thug. The Court of Appeals played cute with Wershe’s attempt to be treated like hundreds of other Michigan inmates and the ruling against Wershe has Talbot’s fingerprints all over it. By rights Talbot should be investigated for chronic abuse of judicial power, not just in the Wershe case but in many others. But Talbot is an entrenched figure in Michigan’s judicial power establishment. Ain’t nobody gonna touch him and he knows it.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder-he won't risk drinking un-bottled water and he won't risk commuting the sentence of Rick Wershe, Jr. (Photo: Saul  Loeb-AFP/Getty Images)



There’s Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who, like Mike Duggan, has washed his hands of the Wershe matter by referring it to the Michigan Parole Board which Wershe is suing for violating his civil rights. Snyder could end this with the stroke of a pen granting Wershe a pardon or commutation, but Snyder is too busy trying to dodge blame in the Flint Water atrocity to deal with “Corrections” matters. In Lansing, the buck stops anywhere but on Rick Snyder’s desk.

Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court



Then there’s the gutless Michigan Supreme Court, which recently refused to hear Wershe’s appeal and refused to put their names to the decision, which is common practice. Their decision was handed down without any of the Justices having the guts to put his/her name to condemning this man to continue his days behind bars. We mustn’t forget; the Michigan Supreme Court is an elective office. Gotta make sure Detroit’s blacks aren’t enraged by doing by justice by a white guy who ratted on black corruption. Any Michigan Supreme Court Justice who does right by Rick Wershe, Jr. fears losing votes in Detroit come the next election.

The injustices of the justice system have a long history. A French lawyer from the1700s named Montesquieu nailed it: “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”

   


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Harvard Law School Singles Out Kym Worthy as ‘Extreme Outlier’ on Juvenile Justice


Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Rick Wershe’s nemesis who has fought tenaciously to keep him in prison until he dies, has been singled out among U.S. prosecutors in a new report by the Harvard Law School for being an ‘Extreme Outlier’ on sentencing juveniles to prison for life. An outlier is someone who differs from everyone else in his or her group. Worthy’s latest disgraceful distinction is the result of cases decided long after Wershe was sent to prison, but it tells us something about the woman who decides who goes to prison in Wayne County, Michigan, and the woman who has done all she can to prevent Wershe from getting a parole.

What is it about Kym Worthy? Why is she such a hateful, vindictive prosecutor? She has a real problem and the voters of Wayne County need to wake up to it. The Harvard University Law School came out with a report last week that won’t be read by most Wayne County voters but should be.



Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor and self-appointed Punisher-in-Chief  (Photo: Patrick Beck, Detroit Free Press)



The Harvard Law School, arguably the best in the nation, has a program called The Fair Punishment Project. "...we work to highlight the gross injustices resulting from prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective defense lawyering, and racial bias, and to highlight the unconstitutional use of excessive punishment," the project's Web site states.





The 16-page Harvard Law School report released this past week is entitled: “Juvenile Life Without Parole in Wayne County: Time to Join the Growing National Consensus?” The Harvard Law School report tells us “Wayne County is responsible for the highest number of juvenile life without parole sentences in the country.” To read the report Click Here.

Gee. Nice to know Wayne County ranks first in the nation in something.

There are 2,400 county prosecutors and district attorneys in the United States. Most of them are white and male. According to one study only one percent of the nation’s prosecutors are minority women. So it tells us something when the nation’s top law school singles out Kym Worthy, a black woman, for criticism.

They didn’t “pick on” her because she’s black.

They didn’t “pick on” her because she’s a woman.

They “picked on” her because of her extremely harsh policies which run counter to national trends in crime and punishment.

To be clear, this law school report isn’t about Rick Wershe’s case. He was sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile under a previous prosecutor. He has, theoretically, a chance at parole. In real terms the Michigan Parole Board keeps “flopping” him in rubber-stamp fashion every five years, so in reality he’s serving a life sentence five years at a time. Wershe’s case and the current juvenile lifers controversy are two separate matters—except for one thing. His case, where Worthy is fighting with all she’s got to keep him in prison even though he’s never been charged with a violent crime, and these other cases clearly demonstrate Kym Worthy is not interested in justice, in fairness, in rehabilitation, in second chances. She’s all about punishment. Period.

As you may know, Michigan’s prosecutors have been battling recently under pressure from the courts to take a second look at life sentences for juvenile offenders. There’s a national trend toward second-looks for juvenile lifers, as they are known, because a kid who commits a murder or other major felony at 15 is not the same person who is now in prison at age 30 or 40 or 50. People change. Prisoners (many of them, anyway) change. Alas, prosecutors like Kym Worthy don’t change.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently in Montgomery v. Louisiana, that the court’s prior decision barring mandatory life without parole sentences for youthful offenders must be applied retroactively, and that the punishment is only appropriate in the rarest of cases where a juvenile is determined to be “irreparably corrupt.”

Worthy, along with other prosecutors, was forced to look at Wayne County’s 145 juvenile lifer cases and reluctantly agreed to a second look in about two-thirds of them. She intends to fight to keep a third of them in prison for life. Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project was less than impressed.

"(Prosecutor) Worthy’s decision to again seek life without parole for one out of three individuals who were convicted as juveniles is completely out of line with the Supreme Court’s ruling, mounting scientific research, the practices of prosecutors across the country, and years of experience that have shown us that youth are capable of change and deserve an opportunity to earn their release,” said Rob Smith of the Fair Punishment Project.

But this is in keeping with Kym Worthy’s long-standing attitude. In a 1993 profile piece a Detroit Free Press reporter wrote:

"Detractors characterize her as overly aggressive, arrogant and unnecessarily sarcastic. (Then) Recorder's Court Chief Judge Dalton Roberson described her style as 'unlikable.'"

Worthy’s response? “My style, it equals my personality,” she told the Free Press reporter. Charming.



Richard J. Wershe, Jr. - a Kym Worthy victim (Photo: David Coates, Detroit News)



One of the key arguments in favor or granting Rick Wershe parole is that he is now an adult and a totally different person than the cocky teen who was sent to prison for life for slinging dope in Detroit. Officials at Oaks Correctional Facility where Wershe is incarcerated describe him as a near-model prisoner who is admired by other inmates and the staff alike. That means nothing to Kym Worthy.

In 1991, at the sentencing for John Charles Albert, who was convicted of murder in a case prosecuted by Kym Worthy, defense attorney Sheldon Halpern tried to argue for leniency. Halpern told the judge Albert had been a model prisoner who set an example for others incarcerated with him at the Wayne County jail.

Worthy was having none of it. "I'd ask that he be sentenced to a substantial term, so he can further have a positive effect on his fellow inmates," she told the judge.

Prosecutors are elected politicians. They win elections by promising to be tough on crime, to be fierce advocates of “law and order.” Words like "fair" and "just" seldom clutter their campaign literature. Like rogue cops, it doesn’t take long for many like Kym Worthy to ignore the “law” part of law and order. They come to view themselves as hellfire and brimstone dispensers of punishment. That seems to describe Kym Worthy.

Will the stinging rebuke from the Harvard Law School shame Kym Worthy in to remembering that her office is in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, not the Frank Murphy Hall of Punishment? Not likely. Only the voters of Wayne County can do that. The remedy for Kym Worthy’s attitude is to vote her out of office in the next election.





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.

Sincerely,

(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.”

What???!!!???

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.