A blog about the shadowy world of law enforcement informants with particular focus on the story of Michigan prison inmate "White Boy Rick" Richard Wershe, Jr. His amazing story compels us to look at many aspects of this underworld of the criminal underworld.
For Rick Wershe, Jr. the Wheels of Justice grind slowly, oh so slowly…
have been two legal developments in the case of political prisoner Richard J.
Wershe, Jr., who is serving a life prison term for helping the FBI prosecute
drug corruption in Detroit’s political and police circles. His conviction reads
possession of a controlled substance in excess of 650 grams. But his
never-ending imprisonment without parole is actually about retribution from
Detroit’s powerful black political establishment because he was a white
informant who helped bring down people close to the late Mayor Coleman Young, a
perennial survivor of numerous FBI investigations and a revered figure in some
circles. One development last week is mostly cosmetic, the other is substantive
but both are part of a l-o-n-g court struggle.
Rick Wershe, Jr. got a bit of good news last week when
WDIV-TV Channel 4 in Detroit reported it had contacted nationally known
attorney Alan Dershowitz to review the Wershe story. The station quotes
Dershowitz as saying this case is a terrible, terrible injustice. Well, yes, as
a matter of fact, it is.
Dershowitz has had some high profile clients over the
years. Among them are Patty Hearst, Mike Tyson, televangelist Jim Bakker and
socialite/murder suspect Claus von Bulow. Dershowitz also acted as an adviser
on the O.J. Simpson defense team.
Attorney Alan Dershowitz (NBC Today Show)
Dershowitz thinks the continued imprisonment of Rick
Wershe, 28 years after his first-offender conviction in a major but non-violent
drug arrest, is outrageous. Dershowitz has offered his services to the Wershe
legal team. It’s a nice gesture but frankly there isn’t much Dershowitz can do
legally that isn’t already being done for Wershe. It's not known if Dershowitz is admitted to practice law in Michigan. Lawyers can't just show up in courtrooms around the country. There is a procedure they must follow to practice law in each state.
But the Dershowitz expression of outrage about Wershe’s
imprisonment has celebrity value. Ours is a celebrity-adoring culture and the
courts are no exception. The judges and lawyers may act like having Dershowitz
walk in to a courtroom is no big deal but you can be sure the atmosphere will become
electrified if Dershowitz shows up in a Michigan courtroom in the Wershe
matter. The newspapers and TV stations will jostle each other in the search for
impressive words and phrases about the New York lawyer’s appearance in behalf
of a prison inmate. His photo is guaranteed to be on Page One.
This can help Wershe because it draws attention to his
The legal system has steadfastly refused to take a second look at the
facts—or lack of them—in the legend of White Boy Rick, as Wershe has long been
known. Informant America has painstakingly shown over the past year that the
legend of White Boy Rick as a drug lord and drug kingpin is false and based on
wild exaggerations by narcs eager to convince the public they had arrested a major
figure in Detroit’s drug underworld.
But in the words of Roy Grisson, one of Wershe’s regular
companions before his arrest, the notion of a white teenager ruling the underworld
roost and giving Godfather-like orders to hardened black dope dealers twice his
age doesn’t pass the common sense test. We’re talking about street-savvy,
prison-hardened black dope dealers who order contract murders on occasion. Only
a naïve fool or a gullible white suburbanite would believe that a white kid who
couldn’t grow a decent moustache was somehow the boss of bosses of Detroit’s
crack cocaine underworld. Yet that’s the line the Detroit Police and Wayne
County’s Prosecutors have peddled with straight faces for decades.
Any regular reader of Informant America knows there are
ample reasons to question the factual basis
for Wershe’s continued imprisonment. But
“the system” doesn’t want to take a second look at the facts of the Wershe
case. They only want to argue about applicable law. Maybe, just maybe, if
Dershowitz and Wershe’s other lawyers can find a way get the judiciary to look
at the facts, or lack of them, in the Wershe case, the pretense that he is a
menace to society may finally collapse.
Meanwhile, Wershe’s long-time defense attorney, Ralph
Musilli, filed another appeal late this past week with the federal 6th
Circuit Court of Appeals, in yet another battle with a federal judge in Grand
Rapids, who steadfastly refuses to consider Wershe’s argument that his
Constitutional Rights have been violated by the Michigan Parole Board’s refusal
to give meaningful consideration to parole for the state’s longest-serving drug
inmate who was convicted as a juvenile.
The Parole Board has released all the
other prisoners convicted in non-violent drug cases as juveniles, but not Rick
Wershe. The Parole Board has been “flopping” Wershe every five years by simply
stating the board has “no interest” in considering him for parole. This,
despite the fact that corrections officials in the prison where Wershe is
incarcerated say he could qualify as a “model” prisoner if there were such a
Ralph Musilli-Rick Wershe's defense attorney
Musilli’s latest appeal calls for oral arguments in the
Wershe case; something U.S. District Court judge Gordon Quist in Grand Rapids
has refused to even consider any of the fact issues in the Wershe case. The
case is in a Grand Rapids federal court because Wershe is housed in a state
prison on the western side of the state, within the jurisdiction of the federal
courts in Grand Rapids.
If Musilli can persuade the federal court of appeals in
Cincinnati that they should order oral arguments in the Wershe case that may
finally present an opportunity to challenge the factual basis for Wershe’s
continued incarceration. If Musilli gets what is known as discovery, watch out.
A lot of self-righteous law-and-order people will be shown for what they really
are. It won’t be pretty but the “system” may at last be forced to do the right
thing for Rick Wershe.