Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another Setback in Rick Wershe's Quest for Justice

This blog post is to update followers of the Rick Wershe, Jr. saga on some bad news.

The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to consider Rick Wershe's appeal that his trial judge be allowed to re-sentence him under recent rulings by the same court. 

Under the so-called "Lockridge case" the Michigan Supreme Court has sent back to the trial courts dozens and dozens of cases where an inmate was sentenced under previously restrictive sentencing guidelines. The high court has overturned those guidelines and ordered these cases be re-considered for a revised sentence. It even applies to murder cases. In fact, the Lockridge case was itself a murder case.

In its ruling the Michigan Supreme Court gave no reason for denying the same opportunity to Rick Wershe. It just says "Denied." None of the judges signed the ruling, which is standard. Apparently no one wanted their name attached to this latest injustice. 

"I'm furious. It's just outrageous," was the reaction of Ralph Musilli, Wershe's appeals attorney. "Rick's biggest crime was working for the government," Musilli said. "He helped them in the 'War on Drugs' and now he's being punished for it."

Regular readers of the Informant America blog know I have argued repeatedly that Rick Wershe, Jr. is a political prisoner. He's being paid back for helping the FBI as a confidential informer against drug-corrupted cops, a former celebrity-cop-turned-city-councilman (Gil Hill) and the brother-in-law of the late Coleman Young, the longtime emperor, uh, I mean mayor, of the City of Detroit. This is a case of payback time for the FBI through one of its informers, Rick Wershe, Jr.

Wershe, who is white, crossed the Detroit black political power establishment by helping the detested FBI investigate corruption. There has been a vendetta against him ever since. It's a case of black racism, plain and simple, and various whites (and blacks) in the so-called criminal justice system have been too cowardly to stand up for what is right in this saga. After all, most of them, including the Michigan Supreme Court, want to be elected again and they don't want to anger Detroit's black political establishment for showing any mercy or justice to a white man the black power clique loathes for helping prosecute public corruption among powerful blacks.

The blunt truth is, if Rick Wershe, Jr. was black, this would be an entirely different story. It's true that there's plenty of white injustice against blacks that needs to be remedied. But apparently, black injustice against whites doesn't merit equal justice.

More in the next regular Informant America blog post. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Detroit News says Kym Worthy Should Be Held Accountable—They’ve Got That Right

There’s plenty to criticize regarding Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, yet few ever do. She’s black. She’s female. She has mastered the art of pretending to be a champion of justice, a defender of law and order. Who could want more than a black woman who likes to say “facts matter,” except when they are inconvenient? The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office makes mistakes—a lot of them. Good luck getting Kym Worthy to admit it. Someone—meaning the voters of Wayne County—needs to demand that she seek the truth in all cases—not just when it suits her.

Kym Worthy was big news all across the country recently. She was on the network nightly news. She was on the front page in more than a few national newspapers. But not in a good way. She was portrayed—accurately—as a stubborn, unprofessional prosecutor who let a man who was sent to prison when he was a teen, rot in jail for murders he did not commit.

Davontae Sanford: Another victim of justice, Kym Worthy-style.

Davontae Sanford was 14 when he was arrested, 15 when he was convicted by Kym Worthy’s office on charges he committed a quadruple homicide in a drug house in 2007. He received a 37-to-90-year sentence. He’s a young man now, but still small. He’s blind in one eye. Someone hit him in the eye with an egg when he was nine.

Two weeks—TWO WEEKS—after the teen was sent to prison, a professional hitman named Vincent Smothers confessed to the murders. Smothers, who has committed numerous murders, is in prison. But even a convicted hitman can sometimes do the right thing.  Smothers signed a sworn affidavit stating he was the killer, not Devontae Sanford.

Convicted hitman Vincent Smothers-he confessed he committed the murders Davontae Sanford was wrongly convicted for, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy refused to listen--for years. (Photo: Brandy Baker, Detroit News)

Smothers didn’t just confess once. He said often over the years that it was he, not Devontae Sanford, who murdered the four people. Kym Worthy did nothing with the information. To do so would be to admit her office and the Detroit Police had made a mistake. A very big mistake.

It wasn’t until a team of lawyers from Dykema, Gossett, a large Detroit law firm, working pro bono (for free), the Northwestern Center for the Wrongful Convictions of Youth and the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office took up the Sanford case that Prosecutor Worthy was motivated to ask the State Police to take a second look at the case. It wasn’t long before the State Police found perjury on the part of a key police prosecution witness—yet the haughty and prideful Kym Worthy would not admit her office and the Detroit Police bungled an essentially life-sentence murder case.

The flaw in the Devontae Sanford case is the same as it is in the Rick Wershe life-sentence drug case: perjury—lying—by the Detroit Police. In both cases Kym Worthy steadfastly refused to believe her witnesses could be lying. They were.

In the Sanford case the lying on the witness stand wasn’t just by some stumble-bum alcoholic narc. It was a Deputy Chief of Police: James Tolbert. When the Michigan State Police did the due diligence Kym Worthy’s office should have done, they found Tolbert couldn’t keep his story straight. Tolbert went on to become the Chief of Police in Flint, Michigan for a while. He was fired from his job as police chief without explanation this past winter.

Former Detroit Police Deputy Chief, former Flint, Michigan Police Chief (Flint Journal file photo)

What makes matters worse, Sanford’s defense attorney, Robert Slameka, has been censured 17 times by the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board for improperly representing his clients.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan vacated Sanford’s sentence and Kym Worthy magnanimously announced she would dismiss all charges against this innocent young man and not re-try him. How nice. How generous. How just.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy - she cannot and will not admit mistakes, even when they destroy lives unjustly. (Detroit News photo, Clarence Tabb, Jr.)

Worthy’s attitude in the Sanford case is disturbingly similar to her circle-the-wagons stand in the Rick Wershe drug case, where the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office allowed and encouraged distortions, misleading information and outright lies about his role in Detroit’s drug underworld to go unchallenged or corrected. To this day she will not summon the integrity to ask for a finding of facts in the Wershe case by an independent investigation. Independent means just that; an inquiry not linked to the police/prosecution axis in Michigan’s criminal justice system.

This woman has a serious character flaw that impacts thousands of people and it’s about time the voters called her out on it. She cannot admit a mistake. She will not correct a mistake unless forced to do so by the courts.

Her claim in a press conference last year that “facts matter” is so much bullshit. They only matter when she, and she alone, decides they matter. She arrogates to herself the roles of prosecutor, judge, jury and decider of paroles. If you think she doesn’t consider herself the decider of paroles, just look at how hard she’s fighting to keep Rick Wershe in jail when every single one of Michigan’s other juveniles sentenced to life for a non-violent drug crime have been set free; except Rick Wershe.

She answers to no one, least of all the voters and citizens of Wayne County. If she and her staff screw up, she isn’t held accountable. There’s no penalty. Michigan law, and the law in most states, gives county prosecutors a free pass to be malicious, reckless and/or incompetent. Nothing will happen to them. Nothing will happen to Kym Worthy unless the voters kick her out of office. Fat chance.

There needs to be a personal penalty for her repeated malfeasance in the administration of criminal justice and it needs to be a big one. Perhaps a penalty that hits her in her law license, or her personal pocketbook. If her law license was suspended for, say, six months, maybe that would accomplish both penalties. If she can’t perform her elected duties due to legal sanctions, it’s only fair that she forego her salary for those six months. Let someone else run her office.That way she cannot muck up the criminal justice system for six months.

In an editorial about the outrageous Sanford case the Detroit News said of Kym Worthy "...her office has much to answer for...including ignoring the repeated attempts by convicted hit man Vincent Smothers to take responsibility for the murders, and not recognizing the flimsiness of the evidence against Sanford.”

Well, yes and no. By focusing on “her office” that would let Kym Worthy weasel out of responsibility and blame underlings. This has to stop. She’s the one who sits in the big chair in the big office. She loves to take the credit when it’s to her benefit. If things go wrong, as they did in the Sanders case and the Wershe case, she’s quick to shift the blame to someone else. Or dig in her heels and resist all efforts to right a serious wrong.

The Detroit News editorial also misses the mark by suggesting an “independent examination” of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, “perhaps by Attorney General Bill Schuette.”

Bill Schuette? Oh, please.

Schuette’s office is on record fighting Wershe’s potential parole because he supposedly had a federal conviction for possession of gun silencers. Trouble is, they had the wrong Wershe when they cited the case to a federal judge in Grand Rapids in Wershe’s civil suit claiming his rights have been violated by no meaningful opportunity for parole.

A truly independent examination of Worthy’s stewardship of her position as prosecutor would best be served by asking a retired federal judge to conduct a thorough review. Ideally it should be a federal judge from another state, one who has not come up through the politically incestuous Michigan criminal justice system.

The chances of that happening are slim and none. I can hear it now. I’m a cranky old white reporter picking on Kym Worthy because she’s a) black, b) female or c) both of these tired old dodges.

So let’s make this call for action gender and race neutral. Let’s say there needs to be a thorough, truly independent review of potential misconduct, malfeasance and possible civil rights violations by the Wayne County prosecutor. Leave color and gender out of it. Justice is justice, regardless of those things.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Striking Similarities between the infamous Kitty Genovese Case and the Story of Rick Wershe, Jr.

For the past 62 weeks Informant America has chronicled the epic injustice of the life prison sentence for Richard J. Wershe, Jr., alias, White Boy Rick. Regular readers know this blog has exposed the law enforcement/prosecution lies and half-truths that have cost a man his entire adult life. Wershe was sentenced to life in prison for dealing drugs as a teenager but his biggest sin is that he helped the FBI prosecute drug corruption among politically powerful blacks in Detroit. The Black Caucus has fought back by doing everything possible to keep Wershe in prison until he dies. Wershe is white. Many, including Wershe himself, believe if he was black he would be out of prison by now. It can be argued that his plight makes the case that racism can be black, too.

After this post, Informant America is going to an every-other-week schedule. It is hoped that regular readers and supporters of Rick Wershe will continue to read about this continuing injustice. It is a way to keep his story alive as his fight for freedom continues.

Kitty Genovese - a victim of a murder that shocked the nation and the world (Photo: Witness documentary)

Fifty-two years ago a young woman named Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, New York, one of New York City’s five boroughs or major sections. A psychopathic stalker who liked to rape, then murder women had set his sights on Kitty Genovese as she drove home late one night from her job at a nearby bar. At first the killing rated nothing more than a “brief” buried in the March 14th, 1964 New York Times.

But famed New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal heard more about the case over lunch with the New York Police Commissioner. Rosenthal ordered an investigation that led to a front-page story on March 27, 1964 that has resonated for decades in the annals of crime as a tale of citizen apathy as a woman begging for help was murdered.

The New York Times did an investigation that was sensational--and wrong.

The Times headline read, “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call Police.” The stabbing death of Kitty Genovese was horrific, lasting over half an hour. The murderer, Winston Moseley, "...had been cruising the streets in his white Corvair, searching for a woman to mutilate," according to the Times. Moseley, it turned out, had killed before.

The late Winston Moseley - he stalked, mutilated, raped and murdered women, including Kitty Genovese.

Moseley rushed Kitty Genovese as she tried to make it from her car to her apartment building. He stabbed her in the back. She screamed for help. The Times reported the neighbors did nothing except for one neighbor who yelled out a window to leave her alone. Moseley ran back to his car and simply changed hats. Then he went looking for Kitty Genovese to finish what he started. She had staggered to the rear vestibule of her apartment building where Moseley began stabbing her again and again amid blood curdling screams as she begged for someone to intervene. As she was bleeding to death, he raped her. The New York Times said 38 people in all heard the dying woman’s screams for help but did nothing.

It was an outrageous crime story that gripped the nation and much of the world. There was just one problem: it wasn’t true.

The New York Times was guilty of the shoddiest type of fact-deficient yellow tabloid journalism but it didn’t matter. The police had done a poor job of canvassing the neighborhood and getting the real story—a case of incompetent police work passed along to the New York Times as fact—but it didn’t matter.

The notion of mass indifference to fatal human suffering within earshot was a story line that was irresistible. The competing newspapers, the TV networks, national news magazines—no one did any fact checking. After all, the story was in the mighty (some would say mighty arrogant) New York Times, the nation’s “newspaper of record.” The media competition, in classic herd journalism fashion, basically plagiarized the New York Times piece and perpetuated sloppy reporting again and again and again. Newspapers and TV stations around the country and across the world told the story as they found it in the Times. An entire neighborhood was stained with a reputation for cowardice and indifference to unspeakable violence in their midst. It wasn’t true. But it became legend. The false legend has lived on for decades.

Winston Moseley in a prison photo. He died earlier this year.

Winston Moseley was eventually arrested, tried and convicted for the murder of Kitty Genovese. Moseley died in prison earlier this year at age 81. But the other victims remained. There were the three dozen-plus people the New York Times had singled out for shame and there was Kitty Genovese’s family. Her youngest brother, William, was consumed with what had happened. Determined after her murder to fight apathy in all its forms, William Genovese joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam where he lost both his legs.

When he returned from the war, William Genovese made it his life mission to find the full truth about his sister’s murder. He tracked down his sister’s neighbors, one by one and interviewed them with the help of documentary producer James Solomon. It has taken Bill Genovese 10 years to get the story but in the process he has produced Witness, a stunning kick-in-the-gut documentary that is now showing in selected theaters around the country and receiving strong reviews.

William Genovese-murder victim's brother spent 10 years pursing the truth about the killing. He found the media-fueled legend of his sister's death was false and riddled with inaccuracies. (Photo: Wtiness documentary.)

Witness exposes the truth about the Kitty Genovese murder. The truth is that some of the neighbors did try to help, some neighbors did shout at the killer and try to scare him away, some neighbors did call the police and one neighbor, a woman who was one of Kitty Genovese’s friends, did run to her and cradled her as she lay dying.

In a recent interview with National Public Radio (NPR), the documentary producer, James Solomon, said: "The film is, in many respects, about false narratives and the impact of false narratives on our lives, how we hold stories, real or imagined, and they shape our lives. The Times story is a - the original Times story is a deeply flawed narrative..."

Which brings us to the story of the life prison sentence imposed on Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick.  Wershe and his friends understandably don’t like that media-bestowed nickname. 

In a well-intentioned mind-set they try to purge it from stories about Rick Wershe. But it helps to remember this slur on his name is a large part of the reason he is still in prison after 28 years, after everyone else in Michigan charged with a major non-violent drug crime when they were teen-agers, has been released, except Rick Wershe.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was never known on the streets as White Boy Rick. It’s true he knew many of Detroit’s major dope dealers from the 1980s thanks to his work as a paid undercover informant for the FBI. He was paid to get around. But the dopers knew him as Ricky. Just Ricky.

As explained in previous posts, the FBI quit using Rick as an informant after they got what they needed to the indict and prosecute the Curry Brothers drug organization. He had dropped out of school with no parental supervision to work full-time as a junior G-man. 

When the paid informant work stopped Wershe turned to the only trade he knew; the one law enforcement taught him. He tried to become a wholesale-level cocaine dealer.

A unit of the Detroit Police Narcotics section, a team that fancied itself the “No Crack Crew”, set its sights on Wershe at the same time they were helping the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) develop a case against the Chamber Brothers, a Detroit drug enterprise that truly was operating at the “kingpin” level.

WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 reporter Chris Hansen was embedded with (some critics say he was in bed with) the No Crack Crew before the term embedded journalist was popularized in the second Iraq war.

In July, 1987, Hansen aired a series of crowd-pleasing, ratings-busting investigative reports on the Chambers Brothers gang, aided in no small part by home videos the gang had taken of themselves bragging about their drug profits. The videos had been seized by the No Crack Crew and shared with Hansen as a reward for months of loyal service as a de facto PR man for the cop crew, documenting countless drug raids and kicked-in doors, which made for great television and a mesmerized audience.

The last of five TV reports on the Chambers drug organization featured a twist; a young white kid who was supposedly their supplier. He was identified as “White Boy Rick” a nickname the cops picked up from a true drug wholesaler who had two “Ricks” as customers and called one, who was black, Maserati Rick for the car he drove, and the other as White Boy Rick, because, well, he was white.

The evidence that Wershe ever provided the Chambers Brothers with more than a kilo or two of cocaine ranges from thin to non-existent. But by making him the finale of a series of reports on the Chambers Brothers, Wershe was to be forever linked in the minds of viewers, judges and parole board members as a supplier “kingpin” and “drug lord.” One local judge, so impressed with the sensational media coverage of Wershe, blurted out in court that he may look like Baby Face Nelson (an old-time gangster) but as far as the judge was concerned he (Wershe) was worse than a mass-murderer.

The No Crack Crew did nothing to correct the media smear of Rick Wershe. Yeah, he was another drug dealer wannabe, but he never was a Godfather of Detroit’s dope underworld. 
But the No Crack Crew basked in the glow that was cast by catching and prosecuting such a major desperado.

As Roy Grisson, one of Wershe’s black street friends from that era observes, the notion that this white teenager who couldn’t even grow a decent moustache was giving orders and calling the shots to a bunch of street-and-prison hardened adult black dope dealers doesn’t even pass the common sense test.

But that didn’t trouble Detroit’s Channel 7, the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News and every other local news organization. Like the Kitty Genovese lie, they picked up the White Boy Rick myth and ran with it. Over and over and over. There was competition to see who could find the most stunning White Boy Rick story. Never mind that the legend wasn’t true. Like the Kitty Genovese tale, the White Boy Rick saga took on a life of its own. And the White Boy Rick legend continues to haunt him to this day.

I was recently in Detroit to do more research on the White Boy Rick story for a book I am writing. I was struck over and over by the fact many people I encountered had no idea who Richard Wershe, Jr. is. But their eyes lit up with recognition when I mentioned White Boy Rick.

The lawyers can argue about which case law applies to his situation, blah, blah, blah. The truth is, no one in the criminal justice system, not judges, not prosecutors, not Parole Board members, not the Governor of the State of Michigan, wants to be the one to stick his or her neck out to give a parole to a legend known as White Boy Rick.

  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, the legend of White Boy Rick is false. 
  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, the police in the Rick Wershe case didn't get the facts straight.
  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, the Detroit news media swallowed the police line about White Boy Rick whole without doing any fact checking.
  • Like the neighbors in the Kitty Genovese case, Rick Wershe was smeared by sloppy police work and sloppy reporting.
  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, the tale of White Boy Rick quickly became an urban crime legend.
  • Like the Kitty Genovese case, it has taken years to expose the truth about White Boy Rick.  

They are very different stories but both are modern tragedies. The ordeal of Kitty Genovese is over. The ordeal of Richard Wershe, Jr. continues.