Sunday, October 18, 2015

Richard Wershe, Jr. is still in prison - and that's a crime

It’s time to review the scoreboard in the Rick Wershe story. Each week since March Informant America has been documenting in exhaustive detail why the legend of White Boy Rick, the media name for Richard J. Wershe, Jr., is a lie. 

The oft-repeated descriptions of Wershe as a “drug lord” and “kingpin” are pure fabrications. They don’t stand up to scrutiny. 

Law enforcement and the criminal justice system need to hang their heads in shame for keeping Wershe in prison for a life prison term when everyone else in Michigan prisons convicted of the same non-violent drug crime committed as a juvenile has been set free. The only difference between Wershe and all the others is he exposed police/political corruption.

‘Why is he still in jail?’
 I’ve been asked that many times since Informant America started reporting and commenting each week on the case of Richard J. Wershe, Jr., known in the media as White Boy Rick.

Rick Wershe, Jr. as a teen and in recent years (Deadline Detroit)

It is a good question. Claims by prosecutors and police that he was a major figure in Detroit’s drug underworld in the last half of the 1980s are a combination of misrepresentations and outright lies. The only thing Rick Wershe dominated in his teen years was the headlines.

When drugs engulfed the city many black Detroiters were convinced whites had to be behind it.

White Boy Rick, a teenager with a peach fuzz moustache wasn’t quite what they imagined “The Man” behind the dope trade would be, but for a city desperate to cast blame somewhere, he would do.

Arguably the most damning accusations against Rick Wershe were contained in a 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole board from then-Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan. The Parole Board was considering Wershe for parole. Duggan’s office objected—strenuously.

The Duggan letter to the Parole Board about Richard Wershe, Jr. painted a picture of a juvenile organized crime boss of epic power and control. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request earlier this year to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office asking for the documentation behind the accusations contained in the Duggan letter yielded a stunning reply.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist,” the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office stated in its official FOIA response. 

To follow are the key accusations contained in the Duggan letter about Wershe:

  • Rick Wershe actually “had” the drugs he was charged with possessing in his 1987 conviction—“the records do not exist.”
  • Wershe had a gang present at the time of his arrest—“the records do not exist.”
  • Authorities had the names of individuals allegedly involved in a Rick Wershe “gang”—“the records do not exist.”
  • There was a “task force” assigned specifically to the Rick Wershe investigation—“the records do not exist.”
  • Several Wershe “gang” members were found dead—“the records do not exist.”
  • Witnesses against Wershe “just disappeared”—“the records do not exist.”
  • Wershe was a “gang leader” and “violent kingpin”—“the records do not exist.”
  • Wershe was involved in ‘violent collateral crimes”—“the records do not exist.”
  • Wershe had a “gang” and/or a “criminal enterprise”—“the records do not exist”
  • Wershe’s late father was a “technician” for the Mafia—“the records do not exist.”

Mike Duggan, now the Mayor of the City of Detroit, says through a spokesman he does not remember the Wershe letter. It may be because he didn’t write it, even though it was sent to the Parole Board in his name on official letterhead. The signature on that letter and Duggan’s real signature don’t look the same to many observers.

Does the letter matter? You bet it does. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office used it as Exhibit 3C in a brief in federal court in Grand Rapids opposing any relief for Richard J. Wershe, Jr. Wershe has a case pending there against the Michigan Parole Board. The lawsuit, before U.S. District Court judge Gordon Quist, charges he has been denied a reasonable opportunity for parole in violation of several laws. Judge Quist dismissed the lawsuit but the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and remanded the case back to Judge Quist for a hearing. Judge Quist has not acted on the Wershe lawsuit in over a year.

In Rick Wershe’s one and only parole hearing in 2003, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office presented several witnesses opposing parole for him. Their ranks in the Detroit Police Department were impressive; commander and inspector. Another was an investigator for the prosecutor’s office who had been a Detroit police homicide detective.

How powerful was their testimony? Let’s take a look.

Commander Dennis Richardson who was in charge of the Major Crimes Division of the Detroit Police Department testified to the Parole Board: “I don’t know Richard Wershe. I never arrested him…uh…I was never involved in any of his cases.” But Richardson did testify that crime is bad.

There was former homicide detective James Bivens, now Chief of Investigations for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office who testified about murders in Detroit but said: “I do not know Mr. Wershe.”

Assistant Michigan Attorney General Charles Schettler was on the parole board panel and he had the presence of mind to ask Bivens a question:

Schettler: “Mr. Bivens do you have any evidence linking…uh…Mr. Wershe to any of the murders you enumerated at the beginning of your statement?”
Bivens: “No.”

Bivens’ boss at Detroit Homicide was Inspector William Rice who also testified at Wershe’s parole hearing. It turns out Rice later went to prison on charges of fraud and drug violations.

But last year Rice signed a sworn affidavit that he did not know who Rick Wershe Jr. was. Rice says in his affidavit he was ordered to testify against Rick Wershe by “higher-ups.” He also says he was shown Wershe’s federal grand jury testimony about the Best Friends murder-for-hire drug gang. Wershe’s secret grand jury testimony was sealed and remains so to this day. Yet, somehow, it wound up in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office so witnesses against Wershe’s parole could review it and find things to use against him.

Rice didn’t have anything to say at the parole hearing about Rick Wershe because he admits he didn’t know anything. But he was the top homicide cop, so if he was testifying against Wershe there must be a reason, even if it wasn’t clear to anyone.

Significantly no Detroit Police narcs, not a single one, was at the hearing to give testimony against Wershe. They were the ones who arrested him in 1987.

Then there are the two Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who tried to sound authoritative about the war on drugs in Detroit. Any serious and thorough review of their testimony shows they misled the board on some things and out and out, um, said some things that were, um, not correct.

For instance, DEA Agent Greg Anderson claimed without any substantiation that between the ages of 16 and 17 Rick Wershe, Jr. was moving 200 to 300 kilograms of coke on the streets of Detroit every month.

To spare you the math, what Anderson told the Parole Board is this teenage drug lord was somehow peddling 440 to 660 pounds of cocaine on the streets of Detroit every month without any worries or violent competition until the brave cops of the self-proclaimed No Crack Crew of DEA and DPD narcs brought him down and made the streets safe from this major dope slinger.

This adolescent kingpin had no gang, had no crack houses, and never was involved in any drug violence. There are no court records, state or federal, that show otherwise. He was never charged with conspiracy or racketeering. No one was ever prosecuted or even named as a member of a "Wershe gang." He was never named as a conspirator, unindicted co-conspirator or even as a witness in any of the major federal drug prosecutions of that era.

Special Agent Anderson gave the Parole Board a history of the major cocaine operations in Detroit in that era, beginning with YBI—Young Boys Incorporated.

“…they basically controlled the east side of Detroit and they utilized young juvenile…uh…Detroiters to sell the narcotics in the Detroit area on the east side,” Anderson testified, according to the official transcript of the hearing.

There’s just one little problem with Anderson’s sworn testimony at the Wershe parole hearing. Young Boys Incorporated ruled the drug trade on the WEST side of Detroit, not the EAST side. Either Special Agent Anderson can’t tell east from west or he lied because Rick Wershe was an eastsider and he wanted to make it sound like Wershe was following in the footsteps of YBI, perhaps figuring the Parole Board would be too ignorant to know the difference.

Then there was DEA Special Agent Richard Crock who introduced “Exhibit # 1” as “evidence” against Rick Wershe. It was his debriefing of DEA informant Terry Colbert who said “Rick Wershe” sold some guns to a guy who knew the Chamber Brothers, who were in fact, operating a major cocaine ring. Selling some guns to some guy who knows some guys isn’t exactly evidence of involvement in a cocaine conspiracy, but…

Crock’s “exhibit” doesn’t specify if the guns were sold by Rick Wershe Senior. or Junior. Rick Wershe, Jr.’s late father, Richard J. Wershe, Sr. was a licensed gun dealer. The “exhibit” doesn’t tie Richard J. Wershe, Jr. to any drug deals with the Chambers Brothers but it managed to get them in to the hearing record and to suggest guilt by very tenuous and questionable association between Rick Wershe and the infamous Chambers Brothers gang.

Crock also failed to mention to the Parole Board that his informant in “Exhibit # 1” was Terry Colbert a crack cocaine addict who was such a chronic liar that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit had him indicted and prosecuted for multiple counts of perjury.  He was found guilty and given the maximum sentence for perjury under federal law. The DEA’s own records show Crock was fully aware that the informant in his “exhibit” against Rick Wershe, Terry Colbert, was a convicted perjurer but the agent forgot to mention it in his testimony.

Terry Colbert - Convicted Perjurer and DEA Informant (Kentucky Dept. of Corrections)

Crock’s other “witness” to Rick Wershe’s kingpin drug trafficking was Roy Grisson, one of Rick’s friends from the neighborhood. Crock introduced an official DEA “debriefing” of Grisson which talked about Wershe trafficking in 200 kilograms of cocaine every month.

In a recent series of interviews Grisson said, “It’s total bullshit. I never told them any of that stuff.” What’s more, Grisson said he was kidnapped from a hospital by the DEA and Detroit Police and taken to a suburban motel in “protective custody” where the cops “sweated” him, Grisson says, for hours trying to get him to make statements and make recorded phone calls to Wershe and others. Grisson says they later drove him to Detroit and dumped him on a downtown street.

As noted in last week’s blog post, Grisson says the “information” in the DEA “debriefing” doesn’t pass the smell test. 

“Who would trust a child with that kind of dope? (As mentioned previously, Rick Wershe was 16-17 at the time.) “That’s crazy! That’s stupid!” Grisson said.

There’s more about the Rick Wershe 2003 Parole Board hearing that doesn’t pass the smell test. That’s why there is a real need for a full evidentiary hearing regarding prosecution claims that Rick Wershe was, and remains, a menace to society.

There needs to be an evidentiary hearing in the Rick Wershe case in the interest of justice.

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