Sunday, March 13, 2016

Documenting a great injustice - 1-year on

Last week’s Informant America piece on the late Gil Hill was the 52nd post on this blog; one year of writing about the plight of Michigan prison inmate Richard J. Wershe, Jr. What have we learned over the past year? A lot. And a lot of it isn’t pretty. Let’s review.

Disillusionment is one of the burdens of being an adult. We learn the truth about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the cleavage and cheekbones of most Hollywood starlets.

Another disillusionment is what we call justice. The na├»ve and clueless like to think it’s woven in to the fabric of our nation’s laws and rules and that it is the bedrock of our criminal “justice” system. Tain’t so. As a longtime federal judge once told me, “Injustices happen in court every day.”

As a character in one of the novels of British author Terry Pratchett famously said: “There's no justice. Just us.”

Anyone who thinks Richard J. Wershe, Jr. has received anything close to justice is certain to be disillusioned if they look at all the facts.

For those readers who get frustrated with my frequent repetition of the facts in Wershe’s, case, well, too bad. He’s sick of thinking about these facts all day every day year after year after year.

Rick Wershe, Jr. in court last September. (Photo: David Coates, Detroit News)

Wershe is now in the 28th year of a life prison sentence for a non-violent drug crime committed when he was 17. Wershe is not a “Innocence Project” case. He admits he did wrong. But he was a kid. A kid who had been inserted in the dirty dangerous drug underworld by federal agents. He committed a drug crime in the only trade he knew; the one law enforcement taught him. But he also helped law enforcement prosecute some of the people within the system who have enabled the deadly drug trade to flourish. Wershe provided tremendous help to “law and order.”

Every single Michigan prison “lifer” convicted under similar circumstances has been paroled. Multiple murderers and serial rapists and child molesters have gone to prison, done their time and have been paroled in the time Wershe has been behind bars.

The only difference is Wershe, who is white, was recruited by the FBI—at age 14—to help the U.S. Justice (?) Department prosecute a politically-wired black drug gang. Not only did Wershe help the feds nail the drug gang, he also told them about police drug corruption in the top ranks of the Detroit Police Department. And he helped the FBI prosecute and convict a dozen cops and the brother-in-law of Detroit’s then-mayor, Coleman Young in a major drug case. Wershe also told the feds about obstruction of justice by celebrity cop-turned-city-councilman Gil Hill in the murder of a little Detroit boy. For a $10,000 bribe Hill made sure the investigation didn’t touch several members of the Johnny Curry drug gang. Hill was also on the periphery of the FBI undercover sting that netted the dirty cops and the mayor’s brother-in-law. He escaped indictment because of a lack of courage at the federal level. The little boy's murderers have never been brought to justice

There's no justice. Just us.

All of the above is the basis for saying Wershe made enemies in the Detroit Black Caucus. He pissed off the black political power establishment of Detroit by helping the FBI successfully prosecute some of their own. It is the basis for a vendetta against Wershe that has continued to infect the Detroit/Wayne County criminal justice system to this day. No one—white or black—in the criminal justice system wants to cross the Black Caucus. If you think whites have all the power in Michigan, just ask Rick Wershe. As Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s attorney puts it, “he told on the wrong people.”

There's no justice. Just us.

Federal law enforcement is complicit in this for what they didn’t do, for failure to do their duty. That continues to this day, too. A retired FBI agent who was the longtime legal adviser to the FBI’s Detroit office has said, “Wershe was arguably the most productive informant the Detroit division ever had.” Yet, successive FBI special-agents-in-charge of the Detroit office and successive United States attorneys for the Eastern District of Michigan have cravenly refused to step up and push for parole for Richard Wershe, Jr. If they did they’d have to admit the federal government recruited a 14-year old kid to fight in the War on Drugs and when things went awry, they abandoned him, they left him to rot in prison for the rest of his life rather than admit what they did.

There's no justice. Just us.

Over the past year of blog posts, we’ve seen the Michigan Parole Board, which consists of ex-prosecutors, police chiefs and career employees of the Department of Corrections, is accountable to no one. There is no one looking over their shoulder when they decide who to parole and who to keep in prison. If the board says “no interest” in an inmate’s case, that’s the end of it. If there’s new evidence, new circumstances impacting a prisoner’s status, it doesn’t matter. “No interest.” There’s no process in the parole system that allows for the consideration of new information. These 10 people decide, without any outside oversight or review, how millions of taxpayer dollars are spent in terms of keeping people in prison or releasing them. The governor, whoever it may be at any time, is nominally in charge of the parole board but if you look at the governor’s list of priorities, the parole and pardon process is certain to be at the very bottom.

There's no justice. Just us.

In the past year Informant America has shown through law enforcement’s own paper trail that there is no basis—none—for keeping Rick Wershe in prison as a “menace to society.” The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office admits—in writing—“the records do not exist” for claims by that office to the parole board that Rick Wershe was a major drug dealer who led a murderous gang and is a man who deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. Yet, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy—who is black—continues to spend county tax dollars fighting to keep Wershe—who is white—in prison until he dies, even after her office admitted the records “do not exist” to support that position. Worthy owes her political position to the Detroit Black Caucus which hates Wershe because he helped the FBI try to prosecute two of its most powerful members.

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

There's no justice. Just us.

These blog posts have also shown the willingness to break the law by the people sworn to uphold the law. Perjury—lying under oath on the witness stand—is a felony that is not only acceptable but committed with abandon and impunity by cops and even prosecutors, on occasion. Gerard “Mick” Biernacki, one of the cops who busted Rick Wershe, was known among other cops as Pinocchio for his tendency to lie on the witness stand. He was never prosecuted for perjury.

The late Gerard "Mick" Biernacki, Detroit Police Officer

Yet the criminal justice system proclaims itself to be on the side of the angels. The good guys. The white hats. The heroes. In Rick Wershe’s case, we’ve seen that some Detroit Police narcs routinely commit the felony of perjury while telling themselves the defendant “deserves it.” We’ve seen that a DEA agent submitted bogus “intelligence” information about Rick Wershe to the Michigan parole board to ensure this FBI informant remains behind bars. Who will listen to evidence this agent misled the Michigan Parole Board? Who will do anything about this decades-long injustice?

There's no justice. Just us.
There's no justice. Just us.
There's no justice. Just us.

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