Sunday, March 20, 2016

What does Rick think?

Informant America is focused on the ordeal of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. who is serving a life prison term for a non-violent drug crime committed when he was 17. All others similarly charged in Michigan have been released. The only difference is, Wershe was a confidential informant for the FBI as a teenager and he told on corrupt Detroit cops and the brother-in-law of Coleman Young, the late mayor of the City of Detroit. Wershe appears to be the victim of a vendetta that is determined to keep him in prison until he dies for informing on politically-connected people. From time to time it’s useful and insightful to ask, ‘What does Rick think?’

I had a chat a few days ago by phone with Rick Wershe from Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee where he spends his days in a cell just a bit larger than the typical residential bathroom. In fact, we had two conversations. He reached out to me the next day to add some additional comments for this blog post. I asked Rick to give me his thoughts about the obstacles and roadblocks he’s encountered trying to get a parole like everyone else who was charged and sent to prison in Michigan under similar circumstances.

After nearly three decades behind bars, Rick Wershe and his family got a ray of hope late last summer when Wershe’s attorney requested a re-sentencing based on appellate and U.S. Supreme Court decisions related to inmates imprisoned when they were juveniles. 

Wershe’s current case judge, Dana Hathaway of Wayne County Circuit Court agreed he should get a revised sentence, essentially to time served, but the Wayne County Prosecutor, Kym Worthy, vigorously opposed the re-sentencing, fighting it all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court where it now awaits a decision. What follows is a lightly edited question-and-answer discussion with Rick Wershe, Jr..

Rick Wershe, Jr. in Wayne County Circuit Court last September. His hopes of finally getting released from his life sentence were dashed when the Wayne County Prosecutor launched an aggressive battle to keep him behind bars. That battle is still being waged and is now before the Michigan Supreme Court for review. (Photo: Brian Kauffman, Detroit Free Press)

Q: How have events in the past year impacted you?

A: “Mostly it’s impacted my kids and grandkids because they got their hopes up and we finally got a judge who saw that the sentence is unjust and then we have someone like Kym Worthy who comes along and makes stuff up to keep me in here.”

Q: What is your reaction to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy fighting the judge’s effort to reduce your sentence?

A: “I always knew someone down there had something personal against me and to be honest, that just solidified what me and many other people knew. They’re fighting to keep me in jail for a drug crime, for something you give other people five years for now.

“I don’t think she believes in the Constitution when the Constitution says a sentence is unjust and she fights to keep me serving a life sentence and you have our nation’s Supreme Court saying no one who was convicted as a juvenile should be in prison for life for a nonviolent crime.”

Q: Do you think Kym Worthy is continuing a vendetta against you?

A: “I think some of the law enforcement people the government had me cooperate against and something to do with the Damion Lucas murder has a lot to do with her vendetta against me. I think she was friends with someone or someone is telling her what to do. I don’t this woman. I never had any dealings with her, so why would she hate me so bad? She gives murderers, rapists and child molesters plea bargains but she’s fighting to keep me in jail when she says her office is strained for resources.”

Q: Do you think she has a vendetta against you?

A: “I would have to say the answer to that question would be yes. I think she has something against me. I don’t know what it is. I cooperated with her office, I cooperated with the government, what else can I do? Usually (in the criminal justice system) when you cooperate you get something in return. When I read the paper these people who cooperate with her, these murderers, get sentence reductions and this and that and I did it (cooperated) and I’m being punished for it.”

Wershe is keenly aware his one and only parole hearing in 2003 was rigged against him. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, then under Michael Duggan who is now Detroit's mayor, marshaled testimony against a parole for Wershe from high ranking police officers with impressive titles but admittedly no knowledge of him or his role in the drug underworld. Previous Informant America blogs have detailed how statements placed in the record against Wershe were false, misleading and in at least one case, coerced. 

Wershe also notes a recent Informant America blog post which explained how the head of the drug crimes unit of the prosecutor's office under Kym Worthy was convicted on charges she conspired with a judge to use perjured testimony to get drug convictions in a case in suburban Inkster. 

"That was 24 months after my parole hearing," Wershe says. "Is anyone going to take note of a pattern here?"  

As we discussed the battle by the criminal justice system to keep him in prison on unsupportable claims that he was a major drug dealer and menace to society, Wershe asked me to include this:

"I know you’ve brought it up before (in Informant America blog posts), but where’s the proof? Where’s the evidence? There is none."

 Wershe has a hard time reconciling his life sentence with the sentences handed down to the truly major cocaine wholesale importers who were above him in the supply chain. The late Art Derrick and an importer in Miami each spent six months in prison and were then released.

"How is it the people that were giving me the drugs on credit, they get six months in prison and they sold thousands of pounds of cocaine in the city of Detroit. They got six months in prison and I get a life sentence as a juvenile? How is that equal justice? Wershe asks in evident frustration. "Our nation’s Supreme Court, it says on the front 'Equal Justice Under law'. How is this equal justice? If this isn’t a vendetta, it’s damned sure not equal justice."

Former Detroit Police Homicide Inspector and later City Council President Gil Hill passed away recently due to illness. He was 84. Hill had been under FBI suspicion for years for obstruction of justice in the homicide investigation of the 1985 murder of 13-year old Damion Lucas who was killed by members of the Johnny Curry drug gang who were trying to intimidate the boy’s uncle who owed them money. They shot up the uncle’s house. The uncle wasn’t home but his nephews, including Damion Lucas, were in the house. The boy was hit in the chest by a machine gun bullet and died in his little brother’s arms.

Afterward, Wershe, who was working as a confidential informant for the FBI in an investigation of the Curry gang, was riding in a car with Johnny Curry when Gil Hill called. Curry put the call on speakerphone and Wershe heard Hill reassure Curry he didn’t have anything to worry about in the Damion Lucas murder investigation because he, Hill, would make sure the investigation didn’t focus on the Currys. Wershe told his FBI handler about the conversation between Curry and Hill. Johnny Curry was sent to prison and in a prison interview he told two FBI agents he paid Gil Hill a $10,000 bribe to keep the investigation away from the Curry drug organization. It worked. The Damion Lucas murder is now in the “cold case” file.

In the early 1990s Wershe helped the FBI—again, but this time from prison—in an undercover sting operation aimed at prosecuting drug-corrupt cops. The sting almost netted Gil Hill who was then a member of the Detroit City Council. The street-savvy Hill was suspicious of the sting operation and backed out, avoiding indictment.

Q: What do you think about Gil Hill’s role in your dilemma?

A: “I believe it was him and (former Detroit U.S. Attorney and Gil Hill associate) Jeffrey Collins who orchestrated that whole thing.”

The late Gil Hill - Longtime boss of the Detroit Police Homicide Section, later a member of the Detroit City Council. (Photo: Paul Sancya, Associated Press)

(This is a reference to Wershe’s 2003 parole hearing where police witnesses who knew nothing about Wershe testified against releasing him on parole and a DEA agent presented to the parole board misleading and questionable “evidence” that Wershe was a major drug dealer.)

“It’s clear he (Hill) knows that I was the one who told the government about the Damion Lucas thing (murder cover-up to protect the Johnny Curry drug gang) and it’s clear I am the one who helped them (FBI) ensnare all these cops in which he got away by the skin of his ass on the police corruption probe. He sat down with these people (undercover FBI agents posing as big-time drug dealers from Miami), he asked them for money and then he (Hill) got spooked and he walked away. It wasn’t like he was conducting an investigation or anything. He was a city councilman. (And) let’s be real; anyone who knows Detroit politics or anyone that knows the Detroit police department from years ago knows Gil Hill was corrupt.

“They can praise him (Hill) all they want, Vince.”

(Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a former Wayne County Prosecutor who strongly opposed Wershe's parole in a 2003 letter to the parole board, issued a glowing statement about Hill following his death: "Gil Hill spent more than 40 years serving our city in the Detroit Police Department and as a member of the Detroit City Council. He never stopped believing in our city and dedicated his life to making our city a better place for all.")

“They can say he did all this for the city. You have a law enforcement officer saying he watched him take a $10,000 bribe from Johnny Curry. You have Johnny Curry saying he gave him a $10,000 bribe and you have me listening to a phone call (rhw speakerphone call cited above between Hill and Johnny Curry in which Hill reassures Curry he doesn’t need to worry about the homicide investigation of the Damion Lucas murder because he, Hill, will take care of it.). If anyone has any doubt that Gil Hill was corrupt, they’re biased; whether it be Kym Worthy or anyone in Detroit from the mayor on down. If they say Gil Hill wasn’t corrupt they are biased and have their reasons for doing so because Gil Hill was a corrupt cop.”

Q: Do you get bitter sometimes?

A: “Absolutely. Listen, I have good days and bad days. I’m not going to say that I don’t. I’ve been in here almost 29 years. You’ve taken my whole life from me for something that law enforcement got me involved in, and then lied about and wouldn’t stand up and say ‘this is partially our fault.’ Do I blame them totally? No. But I was a 17-year old kid. Did I know selling drugs was wrong? Absolutely. Did I think it would cost me the rest of my life? Absolutely not.”

No comments:

Post a Comment