Sunday, February 7, 2016

Coleman Young's vendettas - why they may explain Rick Wershe's life in prison

Regular followers of Informant America know this blog contends Michigan prison inmate Richard Wershe, Jr. continues to languish in prison serving a life prison sentence as a result of a long-standing, deeply-entrenched vendetta begun by Detroit’s late mayor, Coleman Young. Somehow it has been perpetuated by his disciples in Detroit’s black political machine. Coleman Young ruled like an emperor. In the tradition of many old-style politicians he nurtured grudges and relished payback. A 1980 scandal involving a run-in between the mayor’s family and several Detroit police officers illustrates Young’s capacity for getting even.

Detroit Police 12th Precinct Commander Anthony Fiermonti wasn’t at work when his officers arrested Mayor Coleman Young’s family. He had taken a sick day after hitting his head really hard on a door jamb in a confrontation with a barricaded gunman the previous day. Deputy Chief Joe Areeda, a veteran cop with excellent political instincts called Fierimonti and ordered him to report to the 12th Precinct immediately. To hell with the sick day.

The 12th Precinct is nestled in one of the nicest areas of Detroit. It sits on the edge of the Palmer Park golf course. On the other side of West 7 Mile Rd. are some of the priciest homes in Detroit. Some can legitimately be described as mansions.

Satellite view of the Detroit Police 12th Precinct at the edge of a golf course. The red push-pin icon on the right denotes the precinct building. (Google Maps)

When Fiermonti arrived at the police precinct, all hell was breaking loose. Juanita Volsan Clark and Bernice Greer, the mayor’s sisters and his niece, Sidni Jacobs, were in custody and under arrest for disorderly conduct. They allegedly fought with several police officers during a parking altercation. The women had been strip-searched by female police officers.

The women had been arrested during an ugly dispute over a parking spot at an apartment complex in the 12th precinct. The building custodian had allowed residents to use his designated parking space because he didn’t own a car. Sidni Jacobs, the mayor’s niece, was living there.

Apparently Sidni Jacobs had somehow taken the man’s generous gesture to mean the custodian’s parking space was her parking space. She used the space as her own. On the day of the incident another resident had dared to park his car in her space.

The Detroit apartment building where the altercation occurred.

Ms. Jacobs parked her car behind the other car, blocking it in. An argument ensued. Technically, Ms. Jacobs wasn’t even a resident. She had been evicted from this building but she had moved in with another legitimate tenant. The building was owned by a Detroit police sergeant with an outstanding department record, including numerous citations for his superb work.

Sidni Jacobs, Mayor Coleman Young's niece (Photo-Mary Schroeder, Detroit Free Press)

The dispute quickly escalated. The police were called. Sidni Jacobs had a fit. According to one account she kicked an officer in the groin and punched him. She was carried, kicking and screaming, to a patrol car where her mother, Bernice Greer and her aunt, Juanita Volsan Clark tried to block officers from putting Jacobs in the police car. The older women were arrested for interfering with the police.

Word that the mayor’s sisters and niece had been arrested spread quickly. Commander Fiermonti received a phone call from Executive Deputy Police Chief James Bannon, another highly political police official. Bannon ordered Fierimonti to release the women immediately.

But by then a TV news camera crew had shown up and was waiting the 12th Precinct lobby. Fiermonti said he decided to detain the women a bit longer to shield them from the media cameras.

Deputy Mayor Alex Luvall showed up. He ordered the women be released immediately. They were.

Residents of the 12th Precinct, black and white, rallied to the defense of Commander Fiermonti. They appealed to Police Chief Hart and Mayor Young to spare Fiermonti. Neighborhood activists from five citizen groups said he had been sensitive and responsive to their needs in the precinct. They described him as genuinely cooperative.

Former Detroit Police Commander Anthony Fiermonti

It didn’t matter. Commander Fiermonti and the other cops involved in the incident had failed to consider the political reality of Detroit. The title said “Mayor” but Coleman Young ruled as an absolute emperor and his family behaved as privileged, above-the-law members of Detroit’s imperial family. Laws and rules that applied to mere citizens didn’t apply to them. Traffic and parking tickets were mere nuisances to be disposed of by the mayor’s security detail of hand-picked plainclothes Detroit cops.

If Mayor Young’s nieces chose to arrogantly drive at dangerous speeds on Detroit’s freeways, well, that was their right, in their minds, as members of ghetto royalty. They knew there would be hell to pay from their uncle if any cop or parking meter maid tried to say otherwise. Mayor Young was, after all, the head motherfucker-in-charge, as he once put it. He openly admired the enormous political power of Chicago’s legendary mayor, Richard “Boss” Daley. Young was proud to be called the nation’s first black Richard Daley.

Fiermonti was charged with failure to obey an order for not immediately releasing the mayor’s relatives as ordered by Executive Deputy Chief Bannon. In addition, he was charged with failing to take action after an improper arrest. (The police department said the incident was a dispute on private property and didn’t come under police jurisdiction.) Last but not least, Commander Fiermonti was charged with being discourteous and impolite to the women.

He was busted two ranks to lieutenant; a major loss in pay and pension benefits. For added measure he was charged with faking an illness to avoid answering questions during the inquiry.

Lt. Howard Allen, the shift commander when the incident occurred and the ranking officer when the women were strip-searched, was demoted to sergeant.

Sgt. Gerardo Pecchia, the owner of the apartment building, was demoted to patrolman.

Until this incident Commander Fiermonti had a spotless police record. He had been given numerous department citations for his superb police work. A few weeks earlier the Detroit City Council had honored him with the Spirit of Detroit award. It didn’t make any difference.

Sgt. Pecchia also enjoyed an outstanding reputation for his undercover work on narcotics cases. He, too, had several department citations for excellent work. It didn’t make any difference.
Commander Fiermonti and his 12th Precinct cops had made the fateful mistake of treating Mayor Young’s family the same as everyone else. They made the mistake of believing the law against fighting with police officers applied to the imperial family of Detroit, the same as it did for every other citizen.

Fiermonti left the department later that year in a retirement deal worked out with the mayor’s lawyers.

This tragic incident is worth considering when we look at what has happened to Rick Wershe, Jr. who remains in prison 28 years after being sentenced to a life prison term for a non-violent drug conviction.

Rick Wershe, Jr. was a cocky white kid who secretly helped the FBI prosecute Johnny Curry, the drug-dealing husband of Cathy Volsan Curry, one of Mayor Young’s other nieces. If there was one thing Coleman Young hated more than the FBI it was the Bureau’s “stool pigeons,” an old term for informants.

Wershe was not only a “stool pigeon” he was secretly helping the FBI nab high-level black criminals; in this case Coleman Young’s niece’s husband.

After Johnny Curry went to jail his wife boldly approached Wershe, about five years her junior, and suggested they have a fling. They did. It was torrid. It was a scandal in certain circles and it undoubtedly embarrassed Detroit’s powerful mayor who made no secret of his dislike of white people.

When Wershe quit working for the FBI and got busted by the Detroit Police as a major drug dealer, William E. Bufalino II, his defense attorney later testified under oath that Mayor Young had urged him to stay out the case. “This is bigger than you think it is,” Bufalino quoted Young as warning him.

The story of mayoral retribution doesn’t end there. A couple of years after Wershe went to jail for life, he went to work for the FBI again; from prison. He helped the FBI arrange an undercover sting operation. From a prison phone, Wershe contacted his former lover, Cathy Volsan—the mayor’s niece—and told her some of his old “connects” in Miami needed police protection for dope and money shipments to Detroit.  She saw dollar signs. She reached out to her father, Willie Volsan, who was a long-time black gangster who had transitioned from illegal numbers in the 50s and 60s to heroin dealing in the 70s to cocaine dealing in the 80s. Willie Volsan was married to Juanita, one of the mayor’s sisters.

Willie Volsan, in turn, recruited Sgt. James Harris, a member of Mayor Young’s security detail, who brought in about a dozen other cops. One of them, former Commander Gil Hill, was now a member of the Detroit City Council. Hill backed out of the deal, sensing something wasn’t right with the set-up.

The Miami “connects” turned out to be undercover FBI agents.

In the end, Volsan and Harris were convicted. Cathy Volsan Curry was named an un-indicted co-conspirator, but she was dropped from the case when she was hospitalized after a drug overdose.

Let’s review: A Detroit Police commander lost his career, along with the demotion of several other officers after they arrested Coleman Young’s sisters and niece after they became combative with officers over a parking space dispute. The commander’s outstanding reputation and numerous awards for excellent police work didn’t matter. He had crossed the mayor’s family.

Rick Wershe, Jr. had slept with the mayor’s other niece while working secretly with the FBI to indict and prosecute her drug-dealer husband. Wershe later used the mayor’s niece again in an FBI sting operation which led to the conviction of the mayor’s brother-in-law, the father of niece Cathy Volsan Curry, AND the conviction of one of Young trusted bodyguards in the same major drug case.

Current Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who is waging a vigorous fight to keep Wershe in prison until he dies, is a product of Detroit’s black political machine. She became an assistant prosecutor during Coleman Young’s reign as supreme leader of Detroit. She was a judge for a time before she ran for County Prosecutor and won. She got the money to run for office from the same black political machine that was built by Coleman Young. She continues to rely on that political machine to stay in office.

You connect the dots.

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