Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rick Wershe sent to his Florida ‘place of residence’

The State of Florida has finally figured out where to imprison Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe to serve his time in his auto fraud/theft case, committed while he was in a Florida federal Witness Security prison. In July, the Michigan Parole Board granted him parole after nearly 30 years in prison for a non-violent drug crime from his teen years. He’s now in a state prison in Northern Florida.

The Columbia Correctional Institution is a Florida state prison in Lake City, about 50 miles west of Jacksonville. It is to be home for Richard J. Wershe, Jr. for the foreseeable future. Due to his background and notorious reputation as an FBI informant, he is in what Florida officials call a “protective management” unit.
Wershe has not been happy since his arrival in Florida several weeks ago. More on that to follow.

Rick Wershe's Florida inmate photo (Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)


He was granted parole in Michigan on July 18th, but Florida had a “hold” on him, so he remained in the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee until arrangements could be made to transport him. That took bureaucratic time. He dodged one nightmare when Florida arranged to have the U.S. Marshal’s Service move him, instead of using a dreaded private, for-profit prison van transport service.

It took several weeks but Rick Wershe got to Florida by way of the federal prison in Milan, Michigan and a county jail in Oklahoma City as a slow-service passenger aboard “Con Air.” That's the nickname for the Marshal’s Service air transport wing. The Marshal’s service will fly an inmate from A to B, but any given prisoner might lay over in a lockup in between for a week or so as the air service shuffles inmates to maximize the number of passengers aboard each flight of Con Air.

Wershe was able to dodge Hurricane Irma. He was in Oklahoma City when it struck. When he arrived in Florida, he was taken to an intake and medical facility for “evaluation.” 

Florida officials knew Wershe was somewhat notorious and that he had helped the FBI put a number of criminals in prison. They decided to protect him. Their effort to protect him made him miserable. They put him in “lockdown”, which is what most people on the outside would regard as solitary confinement. In prison, lockdown is usually regarded as heavy-duty punishment.

Rick Wershe is a people person. He’s gregarious. He talks to people. Sometimes, too much for his own good. In lockdown, he was isolated from the other inmates.

Now he’s been assigned to a “protective management unit” at the Columbia Correctional prison which is between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, near where Interstates 75 and 10 intersect. It’s in the small town of Lake City, population about two thousand. One of the features of Lake City is Alligator Lake Park. The prison is east of town, adjacent to the Osceola National Forest, known for swamps, alligators and poisonous snakes.   

Presumably, Wershe will be able to mingle with other inmates who turned informant or with convicted police officers, judges and other public officials who might be at risk in the general prison population.

Aerial view of Florida's Columbia Correctional Institution (Photo: Google Maps)


Florida’s Colombia Correctional Institution is not a “country club” prison. Far from it. Florida’s prisons are badly understaffed and underfunded. Tensions are high in many prisons. At Columbia, a mentally ill inmate was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 2016, a day after a corrections officer had been stabbed. The year before, two guards were fired and charged with brutality against inmates.

Florida St. Rep. David Richardson found conditions at the prison where Rick Wershe is incarcerated "horrific."


Florida State Representative David Richardson of Miami is what you might call a one-man advocate for improved prison conditions in Florida. Last December he visited Columbia, Rick Wershe’s new “home” and the legislator declared the conditions were “horrific—unfit for human habitation.” Richardson had visited 60 Florida prisons and talked with hundreds of inmates.

He found toilets that malfunctioned, and no hot water for inmates to make instant soup or coffee they had purchased at the prison canteen. 

“People might think this is no big deal — so you can’t make a cup of coffee — but it’s the little things that tend to be causation of unrest and riots,” Richardson told the Miami Herald. “It can be the coffee one day, then the showers and they all build up until the next thing you’ve got is a riot situation.”

How long will Rick Wershe be in this place? That’s not yet clear. It’s possible he could be there two years, but there are “good time” calculations that could make his time in Columbia shorter. And there is a slim chance he might be considered by clemency by Florida's law-and-order governor. For Rick Wershe, whatever his release date, it can’t be soon enough.

***
If you want to send Rick Wershe a card, note or letter, here is the address. Be sure to include his inmate number in the address:

Mr. Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
No. K70365
Columbia Correctional Institution

216 SE Corrections Way, Lake City, FL 32025


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rick Wershe is in Florida to do his time


Richard Wershe, Jr., the longest-serving Michigan prison inmate sentenced as a juvenile for a non-violent drug crime, is finally in Florida serving what remains of a five-year prison sentence in an auto fraud and theft scheme from 2004. Wershe was paroled in July by Michigan authorities, after serving nearly 30 years of a life sentence. Critics say the repeated refusal to grant Wershe parole until this year was a local justice system vendetta for helping the FBI prosecute politically-connected drug dealers.

Rick Wershe, the guy the media loves to call White Boy Rick, is in the Florida sunshine, at least during prison yard time. He’s looking forward to a different kind of sunshine, the sunshine of freedom, perhaps in a few months. The U.S. Marshal’s service was contracted to transport Wershe from Michigan to Florida. It took several weeks, even though he traveled by “Con Air”, the nickname for a prisoner air transport service operated by the Marshal’s Service. Wershe was in lock-ups in Milan, Michigan and Oklahoma City from mid-August until his arrival in Florida last week.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr.-Florida inmate photo (Photo-Florida Dept. of Corrections)





Wershe told Kevin Dietz of WDIV-TV, Detroit that he’s “doing great” and is looking forward to complete freedom for the first time in his adult life.  

Rick Wershe was recruited by the FBI at age 14 to become the youngest Bureau informant in the War on Drugs. He was not a drug user but he knew the Curry Brothers, an east side gang that was a target of investigation, because, the leader, Johnny Curry, was engaged to Cathy Volsan, the niece of then-Detroit mayor Coleman Young. Mayor Young had been an FBI investigative target most of his life.

The teen informant did a good job, with his late father collecting cash payments from the FBI for his son’s undercover work. Young Wershe told the FBI about corruption involving former Detroit Homicide Inspector and later City Council President Gil Hill, now deceased. 

The late Gil Hill, on the left, in FBI surveillance photo from Operation Backbone, an undercover sting operation that lured police officers in to protecting drug shipments and cash being transported for money laundering. (FBI photo)




The FBI dropped Rick Wershe as an informant and he made a decision to try to become a drug wholesaler—and got caught by the Detroit Police. He was sentenced at age 18 to life in prison under a harsh Michigan law that has since been discarded.

While in prison, Rick Wershe, Jr. helped the FBI again, this time in an undercover sting operation that nailed a dozen police officers and Mayor Young’s brother-in-law, the late Willie Volsan.

The late Willie Clyde Volsan, the brother-in-law of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. Volsan was tried, convicted and sent to prison in the Operation Backbone undercover investigation. Volsan found police officers willing to guard fake drug and cash shipments for  money in an FBI undercover sting operation. (FBI photo)



Wershe was placed in the federal Witness Security (WitSec) program for prison inmates who help develop big cases. He did time in federal prisons in Arizona and Florida.

While in the federal Witness Security program in Florida, Wershe got involved with selling used cars from prison. Some of the cars were stolen, but Wershe continued to participate in the scheme, anyway.

When charges were brought against him, Wershe was told his mother and sister would be prosecuted, too, because they had helped him with the car scheme. It was a dubious threat, but to protect his mother and sister, Wershe pleaded guilty as charged.


Wershe got jammed with a prison sentence in Florida that was structured to run consecutive to his life sentence in Michigan in the drug case. His Florida court-appointed attorney did not argue for a concurrent sentence. Thus, when Wershe was granted parole in Michigan, he still faced time in Florida. He’s doing that time now and looking forward to the day he can be truly free.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

No, Rick is NOT in Florida


Followers of the misadventures of Rick Wershe are aware he was on his way to Florida to serve more prison time in an auto theft and fraud case after Michigan authorities granted him a parole from his life sentence. He had served nearly 30 years of a life prison sentence for possession of cocaine in a non-violent case that began when he was 17. Is Rick Wershe in harm’s way regarding Hurricane Irma? The answer is, no.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is not in Florida.

He’s not in any danger from a hurricane. He is in another state, not in the path of the hurricane, sitting in a federal lock-up, awaiting transport to Florida when it’s safe.

Wershe is in the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s service. Transporting prisoners to and from courts is one the agency’s primary duties. This includes moving them from prison to prison. 

Rick Wershe is a state prisoner and states needing to move an inmate can contract with private, for-profit ground transport services or they can contract, on a prisoner-by-prisoner basis, with the U.S. Marshal’s Service. That’s what Florida has done in the Rick Wershe case.

For Wershe, all things considered, his situation is much better than it might have been.

Wershe was released from Michigan custody to the custody of U.S. Marshals on August 22nd. That same day he was transported to the federal prison in Milan, Michigan, outside Ann Arbor, where he was housed for over a week.

Wershe is, of course, a high-profile prisoner due to all the publicity surrounding his case and the movie that’s being made about his story. For his safety, Wershe was held in an isolation unit. His lawyer, Ralph Musilli, got to visit with him for an hour or so. Rick reported he was well-treated. He also appreciated the “upgrade” in food. Federal prisons generally have better food service than state prisons. This is particularly true regarding Florida.

After his stay in Milan, Wershe was flown to another state to await another flight to Florida. He was flown aboard a passenger aircraft that is part of a fleet known as Con Air. That’s short for Convict Air, which is a civilian nickname for what is formally known as the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation system, or JPATS. The transport service was featured in a 1997 Nicolas Cage action movie. The plane used in the movie is not part of the JPATS fleet. Con Air sounds cooler than JPATS, but the U.S. government isn't known for cool names.


This is one of the prisoner transport aircraft in the JPATS fleet. Rick Wershe, Jr. may travel to Florida aboard a plane like this one. (Photo: U.S. Marshal's Service)


Flying, as opposed to bouncing around endlessly in a prisoner van, is much more humane and much-preferred. Wershe was flown from Michigan to another state, where he is housed in another federal prison awaiting a second flight to Florida. He may be there awhile.

The State of Florida spent much of last week scrambling to move state prison inmates from at-risk lockups to safer, more secure prisons. As of the weekend, Florida had evacuated 31 of its 143 prisons. It is doubtful Florida will be accepting transport prisoners any time soon.

No matter where Wershe is housed, every day since August 22nd counts as time served toward his Florida sentence. The food and facilities are generally much better in the federal prison system as opposed to state prisons, so for Rick Wershe, sitting in a federal prison awaiting transfer to Florida is not a bad deal.

Still, this process requires some adjustment. Rick is now housed in a cell with two other inmates. In Michigan, he had a private cell for years. He has reported the other inmates are nice young men.


Wershe’s arrival in Florida is up to Mother Nature. Con Air will fly to Florida when it’s safe. In the meantime, he is doing alright—and waiting out the storm. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

On the Road to…Somewhere

Last Tuesday—August 22nd—without fanfare the U.S. Marshal’s Service picked up Richard Wershe, Jr. at Michigan’s Oaks Correctional Facility for transport to Florida to begin serving what’s left of a five-year prison sentence there for his guilty plea in an auto fraud and theft scheme when he was in federal prison in that state in 2004—05. When he will arrive in Florida is unknown.


Rick Wershe, Jr. - On the Road Again (MDOC Photo)





As of this weekend, Rick Wershe is somewhere between here and there. He’s actually housed for an indeterminate time in a federal prison, and he may see the insides of several federal facilities before he winds up in Florida. Being transported by the U.S. Marshal Service is no picnic, but it beats bouncing from state to state in a dilapidated van operated by a privately-owned, for-profit “extradition service.” Here’s what happened:

Officials at Michigan’s Oaks prison were in contact with Florida officials about transporting Wershe to the Sunshine state. There were several options, including the possibility of flying him from Michigan to Florida. That didn’t happen.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service has a lot of experience moving prisoners from lockups to court houses, from local jails to federal prisons and from prison to prison. Their services are available to state prison systems, if needed—for an established price. That is, Florida can pay them to get a prisoner like Wershe and bring him to them.

Apparently, there was some back and forth about Rick’s past as a federal informant, his notoriety in the media and the fact he has had some health issues in the past that might require urgent attention if he’s in transit. All of these things may have been a factor in the Florida decision to have the Marshal’s Service transport Wershe to their custody.

Unlike the private for-profit transport services, the Marshal’s Service moves prisoners at its own pace. They may park an inmate in a federal prison facility for a few days or even a few weeks as they juggle vehicles and staff and move prisoners on a timetable and travel route that is convenient for them.

The State of Florida doesn’t much care, as long as he gets there.

For Rick Wershe, it has no impact on his prison time because transit days count toward time-served. In custody is in custody, no matter where your body happens to be. 

So however long it takes the U.S. Marshals to move him from Michigan to Florida, those days count toward his time-served in the Florida case.

When Wershe gets to Florida, he will be in a different environment, and that doesn’t mean the weather. Speaking of weather, most Florida prisons are not air conditioned. Only 11 of the state’s 48 prisons have some air-conditioned units.

His first stop will be an “intake” center. There he will be formally interviewed by the staff and evaluated. This process will determine where he is housed, where he will spend his time while serving his sentence. For now, no one knows which facility he will be in. Florida has prisons, “annexes”, “work camps” and the like spread all over the state, housing over 99,000 inmates.



The Florida prison system is vast and has facilities all across the state. (Map: Florida Dept. of Corrections)





In Michigan, Rick Wershe was in a special unit because of his notoriety as an FBI informant. Bluntly, there was concern for his safety in a culture where “snitches get stitches.”
His unit at Oaks was segregated from the rest of the inmate population. Convicted police officers, judges and other informants were his neighbors. They ate together, exercised together and Rick had a one-man cell. He never had any trouble incidents.



 
Inmate housing in most Florida prisons is dormitory-style. (Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)




Florida favors dormitory-style prisons. That’s not to say Rick Wershe will end up living in a prison dorm, but it is the norm in the Florida corrections system.

In Oaks, the inmates had restricted cable TV. That is, some channels were blocked but many cable channels were available to the inmates. No such luck in Florida.

As the Florida Department of Corrections states on its web site:

“There are no correctional facilities with cable television. Television reception in our prisons is from the antennae only.”

CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ESPN and Comedy Central are not options.

While Rick is in prison in Florida, he won’t starve but he’s not likely to be sending out letters raving about the cuisine, either.

Florida has “canteens” where inmates can get vending machine junk food such as Pop Tarts, pudding cups, Velveeta chili and cheese cups, pretzels, chips and similar fare. But they also have three regular meals per day which are carefully calibrated for caloric content, minimum daily nutrients and so forth. There’s no mention of what the stuff tastes like.

Breakfast is pretty much the same every day. The options include eggs, grits, potatoes, biscuits or bread, one piece of fresh fruit, coffee, one little pat of margarine, one little packet of jelly, one packet of sugar and something called a “breakfast beverage.”

A typical lunch is a modest portion of “torta” meat, which is ground or chopped meat like you’d find in a taco, a serving of rice, dried beans, some shredded cheese, a piece of bread and a “marinated vegetable medley” with a beverage, such as tea.

Dinner might be a piece of turkey ham, cheesy grits, a “marinated vegetable medley”, a piece of bread or a biscuit, a pat of margarine and a beverage.

The food list above was obtained from the Florida Department of Corrections web site. The menu doesn’t change much week in and week out.

The Informant America blog will keep you updated as more is learned about Rick Wershe’s new, temporary life, in Florida.





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Rick Wershe is on his way to Florida

Rick Wershe is on his way to Florida to begin serving the remainder of his sentence in a car theft case.

He was removed this morning (Tuesday, August 22) from the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, Michigan. 

No details were immediately available on where he will be imprisoned in Florida or when he is expected to arrive.

Wershe was paroled by the Michigan Parole Board last month after serving 29-and-a-half years of a life sentence for a conviction in 1988 for possession of drugs in excess of 650 grams.

His case has attracted national attention because he was recruited by the FBI at age 14 to become a paid informer, only to be dropped and left on his own. Wershe turned to the only trade he knew, the one law enforcement narcs had taught him. He tried to become a cocaine wholesaler but got caught. His case became a media sensation. He was smeared in the media over the years as "White Boy Rick", a drug kingpin and drug baron, even though there's no evidence to support those claims.

Wershe's attorney, Ralph Musilli, has described him as a political prisoner because "he told on the wrong people and he cost them a lot of money." He helped the FBI indict and convict corrupt police officers and Willie Volsan, the brother-in-law of former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Rick Wershe is Afraid—He has Good Reason to Be



Last month, Richard J. Wershe, Jr., better known in the media as White Boy Rick, was at long last granted a parole from his Michigan life sentence for a non-violent drug conviction when he was a teenager. But he still has several years to serve in Florida in a car theft/fraud case where he pled guilty out of fear prosecutors would charge his mother and sister because they helped him in the car case. A Florida judge has turned down his petition for a three-day furlough which would allow Wershe to turn himself in. Now he must endure a potentially perilous trip to Florida on a private, for-profit prisoner transport bus. It could be the bus ride from hell.

Eight guys in a filthy caged bus. A bottle of water to drink each day. A fast-food sandwich three times a day, no place to urinate or defecate. No place to sleep. No meds, even if they are required. It would take too much time and time is money in the for-profit “extradition services” business. No stops for medical care. Rolling from one jail to another, picking up and dropping off prisoners, day and night. Some of the passengers aren’t even convicts. They are innocent-until-proven-guilty citizens who have been arrested in one place but wanted on charges in another place.

This is what Rick Wershe is facing in his transition from a prison in Michigan to a prison in Florida. Ever since his parole he’s been begging to be released on temporary furlough—three days—which would allow him to make his own way to Florida. A Florida judge has said, No. 

Rick knows what these transport services are like. He had to have an operation in Lansing a few years ago and he feared he would die. Not from the surgery. From the ride to and from the Lansing hospital.
The prisoner transport racket is one most Americans know nothing about. But it’s real, and it can be deadly.

The New York Times and the Marshall Project, a non-profit that encourages journalism about the many outrages and inequities of the criminal justice system, teamed on a harrowing, in-depth report on the prisoner transport business.

Michigan's Bridge magazine did a piece about horror stories in the Great Lakes State involving private prisoner vans.


This is the body of William Weintraub, a 47-year old former physics professor charged with making threats against a newspaper over an article he disputed. He died from a perforated ulcer. He had complained of stomach pain but his complaints were mocked and ignored by the transport crew. No charges were brought against the transport company. (Photo-Georgia Bureau of Investigation)


Prisoners riding in these rolling rat holes are regarded as sub-human. Their needs are inconsequential. They are bodies to be moved from A to B. The companies get paid between 75 cents and $1.50 per mile per prisoner. There's profit incentive to cram as many prisoners as possible in a single van.

Sanitation facilities are typically non-existent. Prisoners are told to pee in their empty water bottles. Some wind up defecating on the floor of the prisoner van or on themselves. There’s no time to stop for such things.

The transport crews take turns driving, often non-stop, 24-hours-a-day. Crew fatigue is common. So are collisions and accidents. Sometimes guards and prisoners get injured or killed. Hey. It’s the cost of doing business.


This prisoner van crashed in to a semi-trailer at 1:24 in the morning on a highway in Georgia. Two guards and a prisoner were killed. Investigators think the guard who was driving fell asleep at the wheel. (Photo: Greene County, GA. Sheriff's Office)



These shady operators keep getting contracts with state corrections departments and individual jails because they are cheaper than sending sheriff’s deputies to get prisoners who are behind bars in another state.

Twenty-six states, including Michigan and Florida, use these shabby, shoddy “extradition services” as a way of saving taxpayer money. If the inmate’s rights get abused, who cares? This is a nation that’s tough on crime, by golly.

These “corporations” that treat their cargo like scum get sued from time to time. When they lose in court, they just go out of business and pop up as a new corporation, a new bottom feeder of the criminal “justice” system.

It’s hard to say how long Rick Wershe will have to endure an “extradition services” ride.

One man in suburban Los Angeles was arrested for posting an “I Love You” note on Facebook to his 13-year old daughter in violation of a non-contact restraining order in a bitter divorce battle. In Florida. The judge in Florida wanted him returned to face the charge of violating the restraining order.

David Hastings was hauled eight-thousand miles in a zig-zag trip across 31 states for what should have been a 2,600-mile trip. He was wearing nothing but a white paper jail-issue jump suit with his hands and feet shackled. He shared a prisoner van with a total of 33 other prisoners over a period of 15 days. Hastings has a congenital heart condition. He charges he was denied his meds. He thought he was going to die in the van. He wasn't a convict. He was on his way to face charges.

The Florida Department of Corrections will negotiate with the private transport company on when they want Rick Wershe in a Florida lock-up. That will determine how long he will be on this trip through hell.

By the way, the notion of pleading with a Florida judge for mercy is a bitter joke. When Wershe was charged in the Florida case, the state attorney general’s office had a choice of a county where they could bring charges. They selected Martin County, about a hundred miles north of Miami, above West Palm Beach. It is the quintessential law-and-order jurisdiction.

In a conversation a while back, Rick told me the story of when he was brought to Martin County for arraignment on the car case charges. He was placed in the Martin County jail for his court appearance the next day. Rick says a friendly jail matron asked, “What are you in here for, honey?” He told her his story.

“Oh Honey!” she said. “They intend to hang your ass! That’s why they got you here! We got us a hangin’ bench in this county!”

The sympathetic matron didn’t mean hanging in the literal sense. She meant Rick was up against throw-the-book-at-‘em judges. 

In Martin County, Florida, the judges have a reputation for liking to punish people. It doesn’t matter who Rick Wershe has for a lawyer. He/she is not likely to find any mercy in a Martin County courtroom.

The ordeal of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is not over yet.

  




Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rick Wershe’s long ordeal—A few words about a few People


As of this weekend, there is still no word from Florida regarding what they intend to do about Rick Wershe’s prison sentence in a case involving a car theft ring while he was serving time there in the Witness Security program. This week Rick told me if they are going to come get him he wishes they’d do it, so he can fulfill that obligation and be truly free. During this wait-and-see period, Informant America will take a minute to profile some key people in Rick Wershe’s long, long struggle.

Twenty-nine-and-a-half years is a long time by anyone’s reckoning. That’s how long Richard J. Wershe, Jr. has served a life sentence for possession of a large stash of cocaine. He was busted when he was 17-years old. Until his parole this month, he had been Michigan’s longest-serving inmate sentenced as a juvenile in a non-violent drug case.

As Rick says, there are good days and bad days. He’s taken it one day at a time. Several people have helped him do that and they are featured in this blog post.

Let’s stipulate up front that Rick Wershe has had many supporters in his long struggle—too many to list. Informant America, which only deals with the Wershe story, has had over 305-thousand-page views since it began in March of 2015. Clearly, a lot of people are interested in his story. But it hasn’t always been this way. There have been times when Rick has felt totally forgotten, totally alone.

***

One guy who never forgot, who never abandoned Rick through his darkest days, is his childhood friend, Dave Majkowski. They used to shoot at rats in the alleys of Detroit when they were kids. They go back that far.


Roman Wershe, Dave Majkowski, Rick Wershe, Jr.



The photo above is of Rick with his grandfather, Roman Wershe, and his friend, Dave Majkowski. The Majkowski family moved to the suburbs as Detroit “changed” during the 70s and 80s. The Wershe family stayed in Detroit, Rick became an informant for the FBI and his fate was sealed.

Over the years, Majkowski has never stopped believing. He never gave up on his friend, even when things looked hopeless. And things looked hopeless for a l-o-n-g time.

Majkowski has tirelessly operated the Free Rick Wershe Facebook page. It has become the go-to site for people looking for the latest info on Rick Wershe.





But Majkowski has done more than manage a Web page. He’s helped Rick with his holiday food drive for the needy. He’s called and written to politicians, judges, lawyers, you name it. He’s been there when Rick needed someone on the outside to do what needed to be done.

***

Gregg Schwarz has been like a dad to Rick Wershe; more so in many ways, than his biological father.

Schwarz is a retired FBI agent. He got to know Rick at the end of the FBI investigation of the Johnny Curry drug gang.

Schwarz has long believed it wasn’t right for the federal government to use a 14-year old kid as an informant in a dangerous undercover assignment in a drug case, only to abandon him.

After Rick Wershe helped the FBI prosecute the Currys, the government kicked him to the curb—cut off all contact with the kid and let him fend for himself after teaching him how to be a drug dealer.

When Rick Wershe got busted for possession of drugs, the FBI wouldn’t help him. They didn’t go to the Wayne County Prosecutor and explain he got involved with the drug trade while helping them. To do so would require admitting they had used a juvenile as an informant in a risky undercover operation. In order to save face—and careers—they let Rick Wershe be sentenced to life in prison.

Schwarz thought that wasn’t right. He still thinks that way. While he couldn’t overrule the system, he stayed in touch with Rick Wershe on a regular basis for 29 years. He's counseled Rick. He's consoled Rick. Perhaps most important, he's been a true friend by telling Wershe when he isn't thinking straight. He tells Rick Wershe the truth as he sees it. Like Majkowksi, Schwarz has made phone calls, written letters and pestered anyone and everyone who might help.

That’s how I got involved. In the late 80s, when Rick was front-page news, I was working on investigative reporting projects and documentaries for WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 in Detroit. Chris Hansen covered the crime beat and covered Rick’s story.

I became aware of Rick Wershe when I did an investigative series of television reports called Who Killed Damion Lucas?  That 5-part series documented how the Detroit Police Department covered up the truth about the killing of a 13-year old boy by members of the Curry drug gang. 

The top command of the Detroit Police Department essentially obstructed justice in the Damion Luas case in order to shield Cathy Volsan Curry, the niece of then-Mayor Coleman Young and the wife of drug gang leader Johnny Curry. They tried to frame an innocent man but that case was eventually dropped under pressure from the FBI and the Justice Department. 

The key figure in the police obstruction of justice corruption scheme was the late Gil Hill, then the head of Homicide for the police department. He later became a city councilman and the council president. Johnny Curry later admitted he paid Hill $10-thousand to make the homicide investigation go away.


Damion Lucas - A homicide victim who has never had justice.



When I reported the story in 1988, I knew Rick Wershe had played a role, but it wasn’t clear to me until years later just how important his role was. Wershe provided the FBI with critical information which fortified what the feds had picked up on wiretaps in the Curry investigation. 

As it turns out, Rick Wershe’s role in the Damion Lucas matter turned out to be his most important contribution as an FBI informer. It revealed police corruption the FBI didn’t know existed until Wershe told them about it.

In the summer of 2014, Gregg Schwarz contacted me about tracking down a copy of the series of TV reports I did on Damion Lucas. As Schwarz told me the Rick Wershe story, I got hooked, too. That’s how this blog got started. That’s how I got started writing a book about Rick Wershe and the trillion-dollar fiasco that ruined his life. We call it the War on Drugs.

***


Attorney Ralph Musilli



The other key figure in the Rick Wershe saga is his longtime attorney, Ralph Musilli. People have criticized and second-guessed Musilli many times regarding Rick Wershe. ‘Why doesn’t he do this?’ ‘Why doesn’t he do that?’ ‘What’s taking him so long?’ I've disagreed with him, too.

These critics, arm-chair quarterbacks and second-guessers overlook one key thing: Ralph Musilli has been fighting for Rick Wershe for years with no pay. Nada. Zip. Not a dime. 

Lawyers call this kind of work pro bono—for the public good. The Rick Wershe case surely must be one of the longest-running pro bono cases in the history of the legal profession in Michigan. When I look at all the legal briefs Musilli and his law firm have developed in the fight to free Rick Wershe, when I look at all of the case law research, the court appearances and meetings with the Michigan Parole Board, all of the phone calls from media types like me, I can safely write that Ralph Musilli’s pro bono work for Richard Wershe is easily in the six-figure range. Plus, Musilli’s assistant Theresa, has been on top of this fight, too, and she has been a telephone lifeline for Rick when things have not gone well.

It must be particularly galling for Musilli to hear all of the second-guessing, particularly from other Johnny-come-lately attorneys who see dollar signs by attaching themselves to the Rick Wershe story in the final inning.

Let’s be clear about the facts.

Michigan’s corrupt criminal justice system engaged in a years-long vendetta against Richard Wershe for telling the FBI about the corruption of Gil Hill, a politically powerful criminal who pressured and cajoled the Detroit/Wayne County political machine to heap retribution on the guy known in the media as White Boy Rick. Cops, prosecutors, judges and appellate court judges all did Gil Hill’s bidding in denying Rick Wershe parole. Sadly, Gil Hill got away with it. The FBI never had quite enough evidence to indict him.

It can be argued that the single most important thing that changed Wershe’s fate was Musilli associate Paul Louisell’s filing last December of a writ of habeas corpus in Detroit federal court against the Michigan Department of Corrections. A writ of habeas corpus essentially places a burden on the state to show why they are holding someone in custody.

When U.S. District Judge George Steeh accepted the motion, and set it for a hearing—that changed everything.

Suddenly, the State of Michigan to had to prove in a court of law why they were still holding Rick Wershe when every other inmate similarly charged had been paroled. The state knew it had nothing, absolutely nothing, to support the false claim that Rick Wershe was a menace to society.

In less than five business days after the filing of that motion, the Michigan Parole Board announced an expedited review of Rick Wershe’s parole status.

The rest is history.