Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why Rick Wershe, Jr. Is Ready For A Second Chance

A Wayne County, Michigan Circuit Court judge may soon consider re-sentencing Richard Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick—who has been serving a life prison sentence and who has been turned down repeatedly for parole, even though he was never charged with a violent crime. He deserves a second chance. Here are some reasons why.

A couple of emails this past week from a man who means well but is clearly uninformed about all of the facts of the case of Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—aka—White Boy Rick, has prompted me to write about a post about the Rick Wershe of today as opposed to the Rick Wershe of the 1980s.

The emailer writes, and I’m condensing here, that Rick needs to be contrite and admit his mistakes. He needs to be less defiant. What the writer doesn’t know is that Rick has done that—more than once, whenever the opportunity arises. He has submitted an affidavit to the Michigan Parole Board admitting his guilt. He testified to the Parole Board in 2003 that he was involved in the drug trade and he knows he did wrong by getting involved. Rick Wershe also told the Parole Board this:

“Since the time I’ve come to prison, sir, all I’ve tried to do is better myself. The judge said I should get a GED. I did that. I took college (courses). I’ve never tried to escape anything. I never ran from anything. I made every court date I ever had scheduled. I’ve never tried to escape from prison or anything…I’ve never been in trouble the whole time I was in the Michigan State Prison system.”

In that same 2003 Parole Board hearing Rick Wershe said: “Yes, I knew a lot of bad people. I’m not going to deny that and I didn’t hang around choir boys or none of that. That wasn’t the neighborhood I grew up in.”

He’s quite right about that. Dave Majkowski, one of Rick’s lifelong friends, says the only reason he escaped the life of crime his pal Rick sank into is because he and his family moved to the suburbs. Rick and his family did not.

Rick took issue at the 2003 hearing and he takes issue today with those who try to paint him as a “drug lord” and cocaine “kingpin” The thing is, FBI agents who are deeply familiar with Wershe agree. He was never a major dope dealer. Yet there are some in Detroit law enforcement who persist in perpetuating that lie.

It can never be said often enough that part of Rick Wershe’s problem is that he helped the FBI prosecute major drug dealers and corrupt cops. He cost these criminals a lot of money and they and their friends are doing their damnedest to keep him in prison until he dies, as payback.

But as Informant America has noted several times, it wasn’t Rick’s choice to get in the drug trade in the first place. Agents and police officers in a federal drug task force in Detroit recruited him—at age 14—to get involved with drugs so he could inform on some dope dealers he knew from the neighborhood.

As previous blog posts have explained, when the cops got what they needed they kicked this kid to the curb. They dropped him, apparently with no thought of helping him try to become a somewhat normal teenager again after paying him and encouraging him to live on the wild side to help them make a case.

Since this past March Informant America has explored and exposed in considerable detail the lies, exaggerations and distortions that are the basis of the legend of White Boy Rick, alleged white teenage wunderkind of Detroit’s mostly black cocaine trade in the 1980s.

Anyone who thinks or says Rick Wershe is defiant about admitting his past is just plain wrong. These blog posts are defiant toward law enforcement wrongdoing in his case, but Rick doesn’t write these posts. I do.

Rick has been extremely helpful even though he is understandably sick of talking about his past. That stuff happened before he was 18. He’s a grown man now. He’s considerate, frequently asking how my family is doing. He has good manners and a good supply of common sense; something he lacked in the White Boy Rick days.

“Reliving the past is a painful thing all these years later!” Rick told me in an email from prison regarding my endless questions about the details of what happened back then.

I’ve asked him to review many law enforcement investigative files about himself. Past posts on Informant America have shown those files often contain errors, inaccuracies and outright lies.

“I have to be honest. My blood pressure shoots up doing that (file reviews). All the lies really piss me off and it wears me out mentally, Vince!”

I keep asking Rick for details not to force him to relive unpleasant memories but to demolish the myth that clouds his name. It’s not enough to get a parole. He has that ‘White Boy Rick’ albatross around his neck to this day. His legend is built on too many law enforcement lies and someone needs to expose the truth as best it can be reconstructed.

Rick Wershe Jr. with some of his art. The Michigan Dept. of Corrections restricts photos of inmates. If they want to encourage inmates they should allow photos of them when they are doing positive things to turn their lives around.
(Photo from Dave Majkowski on the Free Richard Wershe Jr. Facebook page.)

Today Rick Wershe concentrates on his art work; one of his serious hobbies while he sits in prison waiting for a parole, a gubernatorial pardon or some break after doing nearly 30 years for a non-violent crime. He’s had some potentially life-threatening health problems, too. Still he gets up and faces each day as it comes. He harbors hope that a potential movie about his life will tell the truth.

Wershe got his GED high school diploma equivalent long ago. He’s taken all the return-to-life-on-the-outside courses the prison system has to offer.

When I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for copies of Rick Wershe’s prison discipline record, my request was denied—because he doesn’t HAVE an inmate discipline file. Eric Smith, the assistant to the warden at the Oaks Correctional Facility where Rick is doing his time, told me Rick Wershe is close to being a so-called model prisoner. He has no misconduct marks on his record.

Rick Wershe the man is not Rick Wershe the teenager. When he became an adult he changed, just like the rest of us. All he wants is a chance to have a life. He’s always loved cars and he hopes to get in to the car business in some way in another state when he finally wins his freedom.

But there are people who don’t want to hear anything about how Rick Wershe has matured and tried to better himself. When he organized, from prison, a holiday food drive for the needy, he was criticized by some. These are people who want the public to believe he is a menace to society, which he is not.

One idiot on the Parole Board who thinks Rick should remain in prison until he dies said Rick Wershe doesn’t have friends on the outside, that his only friends are criminals. Gee! Do ya think? You put a man in prison with convicted criminals for his entire adult life and yet you somehow expect him to have a network of good-citizen friends on the outside? How stupid can you be? Don’t answer that. We already know.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Hope for White Boy Rick

Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick—at last has some real hope to get his life sentence for dealing drugs overturned. This important confidential FBI informant was sentenced in 1988 under a now-discarded Michigan law mandating life in prison for possession of a large quantity of illegal drugs, even though he wasn’t associated with any drug violence. A recent Michigan Supreme Court decision eliminated mandatory minimum sentencing and Wershe’s new case judge is willing to consider re-sentencing him in light of the high court ruling. The Wayne County Prosecutor has a fresh opportunity to stand up for justice in his case.

“Facts matter.”

Kym Worthy said that. She’s the prosecutor for Wayne County, Michigan. She said it at a recent news conference where she announced her office had exonerated a federal agent who had killed a fugitive during a raid. The dead man and the federal agent were both black.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press

“Credible facts matter. Supportable evidence matters. Provable evidence matters. Doing justice matters and the truth matters," Worthy told reporters.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—aka White Boy Rick—can only hope she meant what she said about facts and truth. If she does, she will not oppose a court motion filed by Wershe’s appeals attorney to have his life sentence overturned and be given a new sentence to time-served. The judge in Wershe’s case has given the prosecutor until early October to file a written response. If she opposes re-sentencing Wershe a full court hearing is likely. It’s possible Rick Wershe’s lifelong nightmare might be over by the holidays. More about that in a moment.

Prosecutor Worthy’s predecessors have steadfastly opposed parole or gubernatorial commutation for Wershe on the very dubious grounds that he was and remains a menace to society. Wershe is, quite frankly, the victim of a lie-infested smear campaign by some in law enforcement. He’s been labeled as a “kingpin” and “drug lord” and a gangster who is “worse than a mass murderer” without any “credible facts”, without any “supportable evidence”, without any “provable evidence” and without any “justice” or “truth.” The words and terms in quotations in the previous sentence were borrowed from Wayne County Prosecutor Worthy’s recent observations about the importance of such things.

Truth? Justice? Supportable, provable evidence? Here’s some. Richard J. Wershe Jr., who is serving life for dealing drugs, was recruited at age 14 by federal agents to become a confidential informant against the Curry Brothers, a politically-connected drug gang operating on Detroit’s east side during the 1980s. Rick Wershe didn’t seek out a life of crime. Law enforcement lured him in to it to help them make a big case. Over the years he passed along to the FBI good information about police corruption in the Detroit Police Department. When the federal agents and Detroit police officers of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) had no further use of their teenaged informant they cast him aside to fend for himself. So he tried to become a cocaine wholesaler on his own. He was quickly caught by the Detroit Police. He was 17-years old. He had been living an underworld life unknown to most teenagers. He was cocky and arrogant and full of himself. In other words, he was an immature kid. He’s now a middle-aged man who has spent his entire adult life behind bars for a non-violent crime he committed as a juvenile. 

True mass murderers—Detroit drug underworld hitmen—have been sent to prison and released on parole in the time Wershe has spent locked up. Prosecutors have not opposed the release of these killers but they have opposed the release of Rick Wershe. Why?

Wershe’s attorney, Ralph Musilli, a lawyer never at a loss for words, calls his client a “child warrior in the War on Drugs.” Bombast aside, Musilli is right.

Wershe, the teenager recruited to become an informant, passed along vital tips to the Detroit federal drug task force about dealers and cops-on-the-take. This cost a lot of people a lot of money. Those people have friends, political friends, in the Detroit/Wayne County criminal justice establishment; cops, assistant prosecutors, judges and, of course, criminal defense attorneys with deep pockets that can assist, and influence, people running for local election.

There appears to be a loosely organized but quite effective vendetta against Wershe for telling the FBI about drug dealing and corruption in Detroit. How else to explain why he is the last prison inmate still doing time under a harsh mandatory-life Michigan law that was abolished years ago?

In late July a Michigan Supreme Court ruling struck down portions of state law dealing with criminal sentencing guidelines. A big part of that ruling abolished the use of mandatory minimum sentencing in the guidelines used by court judges. When Rick Wershe was sentenced to life in prison without parole, Detroit Recorder’s Court trial judge Thomas Jackson, now retired, was following the established sentencing guidelines. Another Michigan Supreme Court ruling allowed Judge Jackson to amend Wershe’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole instead of life without parole. The judge amended Rick Wershe’s sentence to include the possibility of parole but the mandatory minimum of life remained in effect. The recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling appears to have changed that.

Musilli, Rick Wershe’s longtime appeals attorney, lost no time in filing a motion for re-sentencing before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway, who now has Wershe’s case among the cases on her docket.

“This is huge,” Musilli says. “This will be the first hearing we’ve ever had.” What he means is this will be the first court hearing Wershe has had since he was sentenced in 1988. Wershe had a hearing before the Michigan Parole Board in 2003 but that was more like a kangaroo court, a go-through-the-motions charade where the decision was already made to keep Wershe in prison. This time Musilli is optimistic. “We have (the) law on our side and we have a judge willing to listen to it.” He also has considerable facts and evidence on his side, too.

Here’s a list of credible, supportable, provable facts in the Rick Wershe case:

  • Wershe was recruited at age 14 by FBI agents to infiltrate a major drug gang
  • Wershe performed his undercover role well, enabling agents to get wiretap authorization
  • Wershe was cast aside when the federal task force no longer needed him
  • Wershe, around 16, turned to the life law enforcement had introduced him to; he tried to become a dope wholesaler, a “weight man”
  • Wershe was arrested by the Detroit Police before he ever became an established drug trafficker
  • Wershe was never involved in drug violence
  • Wershe never had a drug gang or organization
  • Wershe never operated cocaine crack houses
  • Wershe continued to help the FBI from prison, enabling them to prosecute corrupt police officers who were aiding drug traffickers
  • Wershe helped the FBI, from prison, disrupt two murder plots
  • Wershe was never charged with conspiracy, a charge used against someone who is an alleged drug “lord”
  • Wershe was never charged with racketeering, a charge used against alleged drug gangsters
  • Wershe was never charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, a federal law commonly known as the “kingpin” statute

If Prosecutor Worthy is smart—and she is—she will recognize that opposing a sentence reduction for White Boy Rick is a losing hand. To use her own words: “Credible facts matter. Supportable evidence matters. Provable evidence matters.”

She has none of those things if she goes to court and opposes a sentence reduction for a man serving life in prison after helping law enforcement rid Detroit of some of the infection that came with the reign of a group of 1980s drug dealers and their corrupt friends in the police department. All she has against Wershe is an unprovable reputation that has become an accepted local legend.

Prosecutor Worthy can truthfully say she can’t speak for what her predecessors did in the past, but this is now and her review of the Wershe case doesn’t support his continued imprisonment.

She can even reprise what she said to reporters in mid-August: “Doing justice matters and the truth matters."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Did a DEA agent mislead the Parole Board about White Boy Rick?

The Michigan Parole Board should take a very hard look at the “evidence” some law enforcement personnel presented to them at Richard Wershe, Jr.’s 2003 parole hearing. A thorough impartial review would show the “evidence” against White Boy Rick was shaky, at best. They can begin with a close examination of the testimony and “evidence” of former-now-retired DEA Special Agent Richard Crock.

He knew. Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Richard Crock knew the information in a DEA informant debriefing that he gave the Michigan Parole Board purporting to show a connection between lifer Richard J. Wershe, Jr. and the infamous Chambers Brothers Detroit drug gang came from an informant who was such an outrageous and prodigious liar that the federal government—Crock’s own team—indicted, tried, convicted and sent informant Terry Coleman to prison for lying; lying to a federal grand jury, lying on the witness stand at trial, lying about the Chambers Brothers drug empire.

Colbert told William Adler, author of Land of Opportunity, a book about the rise and fall of the Chambers Brothers drug operation that he was smoking substantial amounts of crack cocaine when he became a police informant. “I was smoking so much (crack) that whatever bullshit the cops asked me, I said yes this, no that. Whatever they wanted,” Colbert told author Adler.

Last week’s blog explained how Special Agent Crock went before the Michigan Parole Board in 2003 and presented “exhibits” purporting to make the case that Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—who was up for parole—should remain in prison and continue his life sentence because he was, in fact, the “drug lord” and “kingpin” that the gullible Detroit media had made him out to be before his trial and conviction.

Crock’s “Exhibit # 1” was the debriefing of Terry Colbert, the star snitch against the Chambers Brothers.

Agent Crock’s written memo to the Michigan Parole Board stated, “The Chambers Brothers were responsible for the vast majority of “crack” cocaine being distributed in Detroit.”

To drive home the point of how big and important the Chambers Brothers organization was in the Detroit drug underworld, Crock’s written statement to the Parole Board said, “…by witness accounts at the time (the Chambers Brothers were) responsible for distribution from well over 1,000 locations.”

Yikes! Anyone associated with the Chambers Brothers must be a bad hombre.

“As part of the Chambers case, the task force identified a number of cocaine suppliers for the organization, to include Richard Wershe, Jr., a.k.a. “White Boy Rick,” Crock explained. His written statement to the Parole Board went on:

“Substantiated information indicated Wershe supplied kilogram quantities of cocaine and firearms to the Chambers group. During 1987 Richard Wershe Jr. was regarded as one of the premier drug traffickers in the Detroit area. (Attachment 1)”

Attachment 1? You mean the DEA debriefing of informant Terry Colbert who went to prison for the maximum term allowed under the law for repeatedly lying to the grand jury and the trial jury in the Chambers Brothers trial? Attachment (Exhibit) 1? That’s your best evidence that Richard J. Wershe, Jr was a “premier” drug trafficker???

We can rest assured that if Special Agent Crock had any stronger evidence to show Richard Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick—was a drug kingpin, that he was a supplier to the Chambers Brothers, he would have handed it over to the Parole Board at that hearing. But Attachment/Exhibit 1 was apparently the best he had. He submitted other exhibit/attachments and we will explore some of them at another time.

Let’s go back to last week’s blog post and review what convicted liar Terry Colbert said about Rick Wershe in that debriefing about the Chambers Brothers drug ring. Note that law enforcement reports frequently put last names in all caps to make them easy to spot on a page.

That six page DEA investigative report of the Terry Colbert debriefing mentions Rick Wershe exactly one time—and it had nothing to do with drugs. On page three it states: “Also during the summer of 1986 Jerry GANT purchased firearms for the B.J. Chambers organization from Rick WERSHE. Most of the firearms were uzzis (sic) and 9mm pistols.”

That’s it. That is the only mention in Attachment/Exhibit 1 of Rick Wershe and the Chambers Brothers organization. Yet Special Agent Crock presented this flimsy piece of information to the Michigan Parole Board as proof Richard Wershe, Jr. was one of the premier cocaine traffickers in Detroit in that era.

Another fact worth noting; at the Chambers Brothers federal drug trafficking trial in Detroit prosecutors showed the jury an organizational flow chart, including the sources of supply to the massive drug ring. There were two names listed as suppliers: Perry Coleman and Kevin Duplessis. Rick Wershe, Jr.’s name wasn’t there. His name wasn’t on the Chambers Brothers organizational chart prosecutors showed the jury. He wasn’t even mentioned in the trial.

Nevertheless, years later in 2003, DEA Agent Crock told the Michigan Parole Board that Rick Wershe, Jr. was a supplier to the Chambers Brothers in keeping with his status as one of the “premier” drug traffickers in the Detroit area.

What’s wrong with this picture? Why would a DEA agent present the statement of a convicted liar to the Michigan Parole Board as evidence that Rick Wershe should stay in jail until he dies? Why didn’t he present the Chambers Brothers organization chart federal prosecutors used at the trial, the one that DIDN’T show Rick Wershe as a supplier to the organization? Why didn’t he tell the Parole Board Terry Colbert, the source of information for his Exhibit # 1, is a convicted liar?

Court documents show the so-called “No Crack Crew” of Detroit cops and DEA agents, of which Crock was a leading member, used Colbert as the confidential source to obtain court-sanctioned search warrants over 75% of the time in the 101 search warrants executed in the Chambers Brothers investigation.

Yet Colbert proved to be such a chronic and consistent liar that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit—the federal prosecutor’s office—indicted him for perjury—and won the case. What’s more, the judge gave Colbert the maximum sentence under the law. And a federal appeals court upheld his conviction and sentence.

In last week’s post I wrote, “Crock had to know Terry Colbert had gone to prison for lying to the federal government in the Chambers Brothers investigation. He was Crock’s informant!”

This week the term “had to know” is being replaced by the term “did know.” DEA Agent Crock, when he submitted “Exhibit # 1” against Rick Wershe’s parole, definitely knew he was providing the board with information from a man who was convicted and sentenced to prison for lying—in the Chambers Brothers drug investigation.

Upon further investigation, it can be reported that Special Agent Crock submitted an investigative report (known as a DEA-6 in agency parlance) specifically noting for the record that Colbert was sent to jail for being a liar.

In an August 1, 1991 report Crock wrote for the DEA’s Chambers Brothers investigative file, he stated: “On July 31, 1991 Terry COLBERT was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul Gadolla (Crock misspelled of the name of U.S. District Court judge Paul Gadola, now deceased.), Eastern District of Michigan, subsequent to his conviction on eight counts of perjury. (Emphasis added.)

Without a trace of irony, Crock’s report went on: “COLBERT was a DEA Cooperating individual, SI7—87—0030, who provided substantial information, grand jury and trial testimony against the notorious CHAMBERS Brothers “CRACK” Cocaine Organization. Previously, COLBERT was a trusted lieutenant and childhood friend of the Chambers Brothers.”

Jeez, dude! In the previous sentence of your report you just said Colbert was sentenced to prison on eight counts of perjury. Then you turn around in the next sentence and note this convicted liar provided “substantial information” in the Chambers Brothers case. Hmm. Which part was true and which part was a lie? Or do you know?

Well. In any event there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Special Agent Crock knew Terry Colbert had been sent to prison for lying in the Chambers Brothers case when he submitted the DEA Colbert debriefing as “Exhibit # 1” in his presentation to the Michigan Parole Board as to why Rick Wershe should remain behind bars instead of being paroled.

Why? Why did he do it? THAT is an excellent question—one someone on the Michigan Parole Board should ask because it’s obvious Special Agent Crock’s “Exhibit # 1” against Rick Wershe, as presented to the Parole Board, was highly misleading to put it charitably.

For those who missed last week’s blog post {“Rick Wershe and the DEA’s Informant Problem”), it was noted that the ONLY reference to “Rick Wershe” in the Colbert debriefing was that a Chambers Brothers operative named Jerry Gant bought some guns from “Rick Wershe.” The problem with that is, there were two Rick Wershes; Junior and Senior. The late Richard “Rick” Wershe Sr. was a licensed gun dealer and wheeler-dealer who was frequently on the edge when it came to obeying the law. So did Gant buy guns from Rick Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick—or did he buy them from the junior Wershe’s father? We don’t know and apparently the DEA didn’t know, either. There’s no evidence Crock and his crew bothered to investigate further.

I sent Rick Wershe an email asking about this 'gun' business. "I never sold BJ any guns," was Rick's reply. BJ - Billy Joe Chambers - was the driving force behind the Chambers Brothers drug operation. 

By presenting an official DEA investigative report to the Parole Board where a confidential informant (Colbert) mentions “Rick Wershe” in connection with the infamous Chambers Brothers, this seemingly connects Wershe to the Chambers Brothers—if you’re not paying close attention. In other words, it tars Richard J. Wershe, Jr. with the Chambers Brothers brush. Thus, to a casual reader of “Exhibit # 1” Wershe must be associated with the Chambers Brothers, right?  It is guilt by association, but the association is tenuous, at best, and highly questionable as to which “Rick Wershe” the snitch is talking about.

Here are three things we know:
  1. Rick Wershe, Jr. was recruited by the FBI as a drug informant for a federal drug task force which included the DEA. The Detroit DEA had access through the task force to Wershe Jr.’s work as an FBI informant.
  2. Many in the DEA harbored deep resentment that Congress had given the FBI authority to investigate drug cases shortly before the Detroit federal drug task force was formed. There have been more than a few turf wars between the two federal agencies. So if an FBI informant gets burned at a parole hearing, it doesn’t matter much to some guys in the DEA.
  3. Rick Wershe, Jr. helped the FBI convict some politically connected Detroit cops in a corruption sting operation. These dirty cops had friends in the department. Were some of their friends on the No Crack Crew of Detroit cops and DEA agents? Only the No Crack Crew knows the answer to that one.

Terry Colbert (Kentucky Dept. of Corrections photo)

What about Terry Colbert, the convicted liar/informant who mentioned Rick Wershe’s name to the DEA agents? What happened to him?

Well, he’s back in prison—again. This time he’s doing time in Kentucky on another drug case. Colbert is in for 11 years for peddling prescription drugs.

I reached out to him via email and asked if he would clarify which Wershe supposedly sold guns to Jerry Gant of the Chambers drug crew.

His emailed response:
“What’s in it for me?”

My email reply explained legitimate reporters don’t pay for interviews and what’s in it for him is the chance to set the record straight on some personal history. I noted his interview with William Adler in which he said he was smoking so much crack he was telling the police whatever "bullshit" they wanted to hear.

Colbert’s emailed reply:
“Check man you reached out to me with that bullshit since its bullshit im (sic) straight F**K WHITEBOY THE CHAMBERS AND WHOEVER ELSE THIS AINT THE 90,S I WAS YOUG (sic) AND DIDNT KNOW SHIT IM (sic) A GROW (sic) MAN NOW IVE (sic) BEEN TO HELL AND BACK LEAVE ME THE F**K ALONE”

I will.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Rick Wershe and the DEA's Informant Problem

 A recent scathing audit severely criticizes the DEA for its sloppy management and oversight of confidential informants. At Rick Wershe’s 2003 parole hearing a DEA agent, attempting to convince the Michigan Parole Board that Rick Wershe was a major drug lord, submitted the debriefing of a DEA confidential informant who proved to be such a crack cocaine-addicted liar that the federal government had prosecuted and convicted him for perjury 12 years earlier; a fact the agent had to know. It was his informant.

The Justice Department’s Inspector General—the watchdog of the department—last month released the results of an audit of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) handling of confidential informants in drug prosecutions and it ain’t pretty.

Amid the newspaper headlines about the audit there was this from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“Out of Control: The DEA Overpays Informants Without Oversight.”

And this in the Washington Times:

“DEA's criminal informants run wild under poor management: report”

Read on and you’ll see why the DEA’s long-running problem with informants has a direct relationship to the imprisonment plight of Richard Wershe, Jr.—aka—White Boy Rick.

First, let’s take a look at the findings of the Justice Department audit of the DEA informant program. The audit tells us in the criminal world, if you’re lucky enough to become a long-term DEA informant, you’ll be cruising on what a 1985 Aretha Franklin hit song termed Better-Than-Ever-Street. Examples:

*The DEA has poor management and oversight of crimes committed by on-the-books criminal informants. Informants who help the DEA make big cases that make the agents, the agency and prosecutors look good can count on their handler-agents looking the other way on a wide range of crimes they may commit, including drug dealing.

*DEA managers often devote seconds—that’s right—seconds to reviewing the suitability of informants to continue working for the agency. The audit covered the years 2003 to 2012. The auditors found in 2006 DEA managers and supervisors who sit on a long-term informant committee met for all of 15 minutes and reviewed 67 informants. The average time devoted to reviewing the suitability of each long-term informant: 13 seconds.

*Relationships between DEA agent-handlers and their snitches are ripe for trouble. Management reviews of these agent-informant relationships are often only cursory. The auditors tell us: “The DEA has no rating system to assess the quality of the information provided or services rendered by confidential sources. Instead, it relies on an agent’s knowledge and skill to assess whether a confidential source is effective."

*The DEA even uses your tax money to pay long-term disability benefits to certain informants. Auditors found the DEA paid out over $1 million in informant disability payments in a single year. The family of one informant who was killed in 1989 has received over $1.3 million in monthly installments. In 1997 the DEA filed for disability benefits for an informant who was shot one day after he was recruited. There’s just one little problem; the shooting had nothing to do with DEA informant work.

*Perhaps most troubling of all, there are reports the DEA resisted cooperating with the audit, something the agency disputes. If there was resistance to the audit maybe it’s because a similar audit in 2005 found similar mismanagement of informants by the DEA. It’s been going on a long time.

The DEA’s sloppy handling of informants and the information they provide can be seen in Rick Wershe’s 2003 parole hearing.

Wershe’s appearance before the Michigan Parole Board featured an opposed-to-parole presentation by the Wayne County prosecutor’s office that was long on histrionics (which means exaggerated, emotional and dramatic behavior) but short on substance when it came to evidence that Rick Wershe Jr. was a drug kingpin, a menace to society who needs to spend his life in prison. Several ranking Detroit cops who never had any contact with White Boy Rick were ordered to go to the hearing and testify in opposition to the release of Wershe. They tap danced and testified about how bad crime is. Well, yeah. Hard to argue with that. But they didn’t have any information about Rick Wershe, the guy who was up for parole. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

The task of making Richard J. Wershe, Jr. appear to be a drug lord or kingpin fell to another witness, DEA Special Agent Richard Crock, now-retired, a member of the so-called No Crack Crew of cops and federal agents who kicked in a lot of doors in Detroit around the time Rick Wershe was trying to get started as a wholesale dope dealer.

Crock testified under oath and submitted several documents to the Parole Board supposedly in support of the contention that Rick Wershe was a drug lord in Detroit who was supplying some of Detroit’s notorious gangsters with cocaine.

Crock’s very first exhibit for the Michigan Parole Board, marked “#1”, was a DEA-6, the name for the agency bureaucratic form for investigative reports. It featured the debriefing of a confidential informant against the infamous Chambers Brothers drug ring by Crock and another DEA agent named Tom McClain. The informant’s name had been blocked out with a felt-tip marker.
DEA Exhibit # 1 at Wershe's 2003 parole hearing

The Chambers Brothers had migrated to Detroit from the dirt-poor town of Marianna, Arkansas. It was a criminal rags-to-riches story. The DEA-6 submitted to the Parole Board by Agent Crock at Rick Wershe’s 2003 hearing says the informant against the Chambers Brothers had moved to Detroit from the Marianna, Arkansas area in 1983 and began to sell marijuana for Billy Joe Chambers out of a convenience store called “BJ’s Party Store.”

Even though the informant’s name was blacked out on the DEA-6 that was given to the Parole Board, his identity can be deduced from other evidence. 

In a book called Land of Opportunity about the rise and fall of the Chambers Brothers Drug Empire, author William Adler wrote: “Nobody provided the police with more information than Terry Colbert, the young man who had worked for Billy years earlier at BJ’s Party Store.” The DEA-6 noted the confidential informant had moved to Detroit from Arkansas in 1983. Adler’s book said Terry Colbert had migrated from Arkansas to Detroit in 1983. The DEA-6 and Adler's book say the informant, identified by Adler as Terry Colbert, worked for Billy Joe Chambers at a Detroit convenience store.

In this six-page DEA debriefing Colbert describes the scope of the Chambers Brothers drug operation which was truly impressive—the biggest Detroit had ever seen. But he only mentions Rick Wershe one time and it had nothing to do with drugs. Colbert said an operative of the Chambers Brothers organization bought some guns from Rick Wershe, presumably meaning Rick Wershe, Jr. But maybe not. His father was Richard or “Rick” Wershe, Sr.

DEA informant report says Wershe sold guns, not drugs. But which Wershe? Jr. or Sr.?

This is a good place to note Richard J, Wershe, Jr.’s late father, Richard J. Wershe, Sr., was a gun dealer. He also was known to some as Rick Wershe. Whether Rick Wershe, Jr. or Sr. sold the guns to the Chambers Brothers is never spelled out in the DEA-6 report. The name “Rick Wershe” is just there, with no clarification, no description of whether it was Jr. or Sr. or evidence of any further investigation of what Colbert said. The DEA-6 was typed up three days after the informant debriefing; plenty of time for the DEA to make inquiries with the FBI or BATF—the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

That’s it; one mention of Rick Wershe selling guns, not dope, to the Chambers Brothers and no due diligence explanation of whether “Rick Wershe” was Richard J. Wershe Junior or Senior.

This DEA-6 was offered to the Michigan Parole Board as Exhibit # 1, as part of the “proof” Richard Wershe, Jr. was a drug dealing menace to society who should remain locked up.

It gets better—or worse depending on how you look at it.

Terry Colbert was one of the key secret witnesses testifying before a federal grand jury investigating the Chambers Brothers drug ring.  When they went to trial Terry Colbert was one of the star witnesses for the prosecution. It was a lie-filled disaster.

The problem was Terry Colbert used crack—big time. In Land of Opportunity William Adler devotes considerable space to profiling Terry Colbert, the confidential informant quoted in Exhibit # 1 against Rick Wershe.

He changed from an easygoing if unreliable young man to—as many who knew him put it—a ‘fiend,’” Adler wrote. Colbert had become addicted—badly—to smoking crack cocaine. Adler quotes Billy Joe Chambers as saying (Colbert) “started smoking his lights out.” Billy Joe Chambers couldn’t trust Colbert to be around crack cocaine to sell it so Colbert’s source of income to buy crack dried up. He decided to get even with his old pal, Billy Joe Chambers. “F**k it, I’ll fix him,” Colbert told Adler. Terry Colbert decided to become a police informant against the Chambers Brothers.

Adler writes that Terry Colbert walked in to the Detroit Police 5th Precinct one day and volunteered to become an informant. He met with a narc named Mick Biernacki, a member of the No Crack Crew. As noted previously, this was a team of DEA and Detroit Police officers working to build a case against the Chambers Brothers. Biernacki, the Detroit Police narc, worked closely with Richard Crock, the DEA agent. The No Crack Crew shared Colbert as an informant. 

Even though Colbert was too addled by crack to sell it, even though dope dealers didn't trust him, this didn’t bother the DEA and Detroit Police who used him as a major informant.

“I was smoking so much (crack) that whatever bullshit the cops asked me, I said yes this, no that. Whatever they wanted,” Colbert told author Adler.

Court records show that in exchange for his confidential informant work the DEA negotiated immunity from prosecution for Colbert and paid him over $16,000 for “expenses” over a two year period. Court documents also show the DEA and Detroit Police team known as the “No Crack Crew” relied on Colbert the crack addict as the confidential source who provided “probable cause” for at least 75% of the 101 search warrants (raids) executed in the Chambers Brothers drug conspiracy investigation.

When it came time to testify, Terry Colbert proved to be such an unreliable liar that he was later indicted by a federal grand jury and convicted in 1991 on eight counts of perjury. He was given a sentence of 135 months (over 11 years), the maximum under federal law. Fortunately for the government, other witnesses and evidence led to convictions in the Chambers Brothers case.

Yet, in 2003 DEA Special Agent Richard Crock chose to make the 1987 debriefing of this convicted liar Exhibit # 1 for the Michigan Parole Board in their consideration of whether to release Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

Crock had to know Terry Colbert had gone to prison for lying under oath before a federal grand jury and on the witness stand in the Chambers Brothers court trial. Crock had shared Colbert as an informant for the No Crack Crew so he was Crock’s informant! Yet, Agent Crock submitted to the Parole Board the Terry Colbert debriefing where he mentions Rick Wershe one time for selling guns, not drugs to the Chambers Brothers organization.

No one has challenged the use of information from a convicted liar to make a decision about parole for Rick Wershe and no one has questioned DEA Agent Richard Crock’s clearly misleading presentation under oath.

White Boy Rick is still in prison to this day and according to the Justice Department Inspector General the DEA still has serious problems managing confidential informants and the agents who handle them.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Tale of Two Sams and a Court Ruling

Informant America is determined to get at the truth of the story of Richard Wershe, Jr. who has been burdened with the street name White Boy Rick since he was a teenager. This week’s post includes an important correction to last week’s installment and a discussion of why it’s premature for Wershe’s supporters to get excited about a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling on sentencing guidelines.

This week’s blog post is a twofer; two topics. First, a correction to last week’s post. The previous post talked about Sam Curry, the cocaine importing partner of the late Art Derrick who was the wholesale supplier to the biggest names in the Detroit cocaine trade of the 80s. The blog mentioned he was the father of the notorious Curry Brothers, the ones Richard Wershe Jr. informed on for the FBI.

It turns out there were TWO Sam Currys; both older black men, both in the drug trade, both operating on Detroit East Side during the same years and both named Sam Curry. The odds of that must be astronomical. The existence of the two Sams was pointed out by crime blogger Scott Burnstein and confirmed in an email from Rick himself. The Sam Curry who was Art Derrick’s partner as a wholesaler/importer of cocaine was not the Sam Curry who is the father of the Curry Brothers. In defense of this blog it should be noted some law enforcement guys from that era didn’t realize there were two Sam Currys, either.

It’s important to get this stuff right and correct any reporting errors. The reason to be scrupulous with the facts is this blog is focused on debunking the legend of White Boy Rick which is based on lies, falsehoods and wild exaggerations.

A big reason Rick Wershe is still in prison when contract murderers have been set free is because of his legendary status as a “drug lord” and “kingpin.” It’s not true. It never was. But the Michigan Parole Board and various state and local criminal justice agencies believe it because it’s never been seriously challenged, which is what Informant America is doing in installments each week.

This Big Lie, initiated by some glory-hungry people in law enforcement and sensationalized by the Detroit media in the late 80s, has to be exposed. People with the power to do something about Rick Wershe’s continued imprisonment must be shown Rick Wershe has been kept in prison based on false information. There are plenty of lies that have been published about him. In order to dismantle the White Boy Rick legend this series of reports must adhere to facts and the truth.

The role of informants in our criminal justice system is one of the most underreported yet critical elements in prosecutions. This blog will eventually report on other interesting informant cases from around the country but for now it is focused on exposing the false information about Richard Wershe, Jr.—aka—White Boy Rick.

Some of Rick Wershe’s supporters got excited last week over reports the Michigan Supreme Court had struck down portions of Michigan’s sentencing guidelines as unconstitutional. One media story speculated on whether it could pave the way for Richard Wershe, Jr.’s release. Practically speaking, it’s hard to see how.

In 1992 the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the drug law under which Rick Wershe was convicted. It was called the '650 law.' Anyone convicted of possession of more than 650 grams of cocaine or other illegal drugs automatically received a life sentence. It didn’t matter if the drug dealer was never involved in any violence. If they caught you with 650 grams or more, you were in for life. In laymen’s terms, the Michigan Supreme Court said in its 1992 ruling that this is contrary to the concept of letting the punishment fit the crime.

Former Michigan Governor William Milliken was quoted as saying it was the worst piece of legislation he ever signed in his career. It was enacted in the era when drugs erupted as a major crime problem coast to coast. The frightened public demanded that the politicians DO SOMETHING. In Michigan, the 650 lifer law was one of the official responses. It was part of the laughable “war on drugs.”

So Rick Wershe, who never committed or ordered any acts of drug violence, who never operated crack houses, who never had a drug dealing organization or “crew”, who was never named in any conspiracy case, never charged with operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, otherwise known was the federal “kingpin” statute, was sent to prison for life. 

All of the other Michigan drug dealers convicted under the 650 law have been paroled. Not Rick Wershe. He’s haunted by the White Boy Rick legend. If there is a legal argument to be made for freeing Rick Wershe, Jr. it ought to be the 1992 Michigan Supreme Court ruling. Yet, the powers-that-be have refused to budge on a parole for the inmate known as White Boy Rick.

Does this look like a "kingpin" who had ruthless, murderous inner city drug dealers following his orders?
(Detroit News photo)

Some like to think Rick Wershe will be set free if Gov. Rick Snyder or some federal or local judge agrees with the legal implications of some higher court ruling such as the one last week. Uh huh. Sure.

A few weeks ago Michigan's Gov. Snyder refused to reduce the sentence of a man named Saulo Montalvo who has done 20 years for being the getaway driver in a store robbery where the clerk was killed. Like Rick Wershe, Montalvo was a teen when the crime was committed. He was 16. Rick was arrested under the 650 law when he was 17 and sent to prison at age 18. 

Montalvo's bid for release by the Governor included a letter signed by a dozen of the murdered store clerk's relatives who said Montalvo deserved another chance. In Wershe’s case, even former FBI agents who know him have sent letters and testified to the Parole Board that he ought to be released. Their judgment has been ignored.

Here is the reason the Montalvo story is worth noting: Gov. Snyder relied on the judgment and recommendations of the Michigan Parole Board in making his decision. The Associated Press reported, "...Snyder rejected the request for a shorter sentence after the Michigan parole board, which screens all cases, said a commutation had "no merit."

Please think real hard about the previous sentence. Any appeal to the governor in behalf of Rick Wershe is going to go right back to the Parole Board which has steadfastly refused any breaks for the prisoner known as White Boy Rick. At present there is no political  or administrative mechanism for challenging the judgment of the Parole Board. There is no way to compel an investigation of the so-called facts the Parole Board is relying upon to decide Rick Wershe's fate. Ideally there should be a thorough independent investigation of the facts, the real facts, in the Rick Wershe case.Such an investigation should explore the accusation made here that the Parole Board received false information about inmate Wershe.

This blog will prove, in great detail, the Michigan Parole Board has been deceived by some members of law enforcement who have opposed parole for Richard Wershe, Jr. as part of what appears to be a vendetta. This blog will prove law enforcement documents about Wershe that were given to the Parole Board contain false information and provable absurdities. 

That kind of exposure of the truth MUST be done if there is any hope of changing minds on the Parole Board. It’s a tough task but not impossible. It requires exposing two things: 1) the lies in the law enforcement documents purporting to show Wershe was a drug lord and 2) the irresponsible media frenzy that created the legend of White Boy Rick. Anyone who thinks the Parole Board has not been influenced by the media coverage of an inmate known as a "street icon" and "legend" is mistaken. Period.

There’s a reason top-notch criminal defense attorneys worry and argue in court about pre-trial publicity. They KNOW the court of public opinion often matters as much as the courtrooms in the courthouses, even if judges pretend otherwise.

Wershe is a man imprisoned by his reputation, which is false. The governor, the courts and the parole board are reluctant to let someone known as White Boy Rick go free. They tremble in fear there will be a public uproar; that they will be accused of being soft on crime. Better, in their minds, to play it safe, to keep a man in prison rather than face criticism from uninformed voters and taxpayers and their political opponents.

They need what is known as political cover. They need proof Rick Wershe is not a menace to society and never was. If they can be shown conclusively that Richard Wershe, Jr.’s reputation as a “drug lord” and “kingpin” is without any substance, that it is a lie-turned-legend, they just might have the courage to finally bring justice to a great injustice. That’s why Informant America will continue to hammer away at exposing the truth about White Boy Rick. More next week.