Sunday, September 25, 2016
In 2003, the Michigan Parole Board considered releasing Richard J. “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. from prison. He had been sentenced to life for a non-violent but major drug conviction while he was a teenager. One of the most devastating arguments against Wershe’s parole came in the form of a letter from then-Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan.
The man who is now the Mayor of the City of Detroit claims he “doesn’t recall” the letter to the parole board but he recently sidestepped the issue in an interview with WDIV-TV reporter Kevin Dietz, saying his “office” made a recommendation in 2003 and now it’s current prosecutor Kym Worthy’s “job to decide, in 2016, what’s appropriate.
Maybe so, but it’s Mike Duggan’s job to man up and own up to the misstatements and out and out lies in a letter under his name about a prisoner serving a life sentence. If he can defend that letter (he can’t), he should go for it. If not, he should do the right thing in the interest of justice.
The list of people who are responsible or irresponsible in the continued imprisonment of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is long. I would call them a Basket of Deplorables but that term has already been taken by someone else who has her own issues with what is true and what’s a lie. But I digress.
One of those near the top of the list is Michael Duggan, the sitting Mayor of the City of Detroit. He wrote, or his office wrote in his name, a vicious letter to the Michigan Parole Board in 2003 opposing parole for Wershe. You can read that letter here.
If it didn’t have such serious ramifications the Duggan letter would be laughable in its comic book-like claims about Wershe. Nearly every alleged statement of fact in the Duggan letter about Wershe can be challenged, if not disproven outright. Here are some examples with comic book-style bold text and exclamation points.
“Wershe’s gang!” (What gang? There are no police or court records of a Wershe gang. None. Zero.)
“Several members of Wershe’s gang were found dead!” (There was no gang. One friend of his was murdered in a romantic triangle. Duggan, current prosecutor Worthy and the Detroit Police cannot cite one, much less “several” dead bodies associated with Wershe.)
“Ruthless drug dealer!” (There’s no evidence Wershe ever operated crack houses. He tried, but failed, to become a cocaine import-wholesaler. As a white teenager in a black city Wershe didn’t have the street network—or gang—to sell crack cocaine.)
“Notorious violent kingpin!” (There is nothing in federal or state court records—nothing—to support the claim that Wershe was a “kingpin.” He was never charged or prosecuted under the “kingpin” drug laws and he was never named in any drug case involving Detroit’s true drug kingpins of that era. The “notorious violent kingpin” lie cannot be supported by anything in the record.)
“His crimes involved firearms!” (No they didn’t. Wershe’s court records don’t include any felony firearm—gun charges—period. This includes prosecutions by Duggan’s office back then, prosecutions by his predecessor, and prosecutions by his successor. It’s another lie that cannot be supported by the evidence and the court records.)
“The father (Richard Wershe, Sr.) was believed to be an electronics technician for the Mafia!” (Believed by whom? Agents of the FBI—the only law enforcement in Detroit investigating organized crime—literally laugh at this one. Wershe’s father dabbled in electronics and satellite dishes and may have done business with some questionable characters, but there is no evidence—none—that he was an associate of the Detroit Mafia family.)
“Fear of retaliation!” (There is nothing—not a single police report or court filing—to indicate Rick Wershe ever intimated any witnesses. Indeed, just the opposite is true; two key witnesses said they feared and hid from the police, not Rick Wershe. Two men have said separately that the police got rough with them when they refused to give false testimony against Wershe.)
“Menace to society!” (Wershe was never charged with a violent crime. Neither were any members of his “gang”—because he never had a gang.)
SOCK! POW! CRASH! BOOM!
As Informant America has noted in previous posts, the Duggan letter is full of inaccuracies, unsupportable accusations and outright lies.
Mike Duggan should be ashamed to have his named associated with these three pages of slander. He needs to be called out for allowing lies and distortions to be put on the record in his name.
Duggan’s name carries a lot of weight in the criminal justice system because of who he was (a big city prosecutor) and who he is (a big city mayor.) Mike Duggan needs to stand up for truth and justice. He needs to either a) publicly disavow the letter under his name to the parole board about Rick Wershe or b) call for a public hearing to air the facts, truth-and-reconciliation-style about a man who remains in prison instead of on parole partly due to the falsehoods about Rick Wershe in his letter.
I can guarantee you he won’t do “b” because he can’t. There is no evidence in police files, in prosecutor files, in court files to back up most of the 2003 letter. There is nothing in the federal court records, either.
In 2015 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from me for the files and information supporting the claims in the Duggan letter, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office famously denied my request, stating that after a “diligent search” they “certify” the “files do not exist.” They want Wershe to remain in prison until he dies but they didn’t bother to keep any evidence or documentation to support that position if called upon by a court to do so.
The Detroit Police Department, in response to another Freedom of Information Act request, told me they had purged all of their files on Richard J. Wershe, Jr. except for a single file card that said he was convicted in Recorder’s Court on a charge of possession of cocaine over 650 grams and that he was sentenced to life in prison.
A recent Freedom of Information Act request from me shows Duggan doesn’t think he has anything to worry about in terms of a besmirched reputation due to the three pages of Duggan-letter falsehoods against Rick Wershe still floating around as a prosecution exhibit in the effort to deny Wershe a parole.
The City Law Department says there are no internal memos, emails or any other communications between Duggan and his administration regarding the Wershe controversy. It was and is an ugly stain on Duggan’s reputation for honesty and truthfulness but it’s not on his radar screen.
In the Wershe saga the Wayne County Prosecutor has been in the spotlight. The police have been in the spotlight. The state appellate courts have been in the spotlight. The federal courts have been in the spotlight. The Michigan Parole Board has been in the spotlight. Almost everyone in this epic miscarriage of justice has been in the spotlight except Mike Duggan. It’s his turn.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Today is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. It was an apocalyptic day in American history. For Richard J. Wershe, Jr., every day is apocalyptic. It’s another day of his life that has slipped away due to political retribution.
For Rick Wershe, the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on this country is just another day behind bars as a political prisoner, the victim of a vendetta by a corrupt political and prosecutorial machine.
It can be argued that no other Michigan prison inmate has received as much local and even national media attention and outside-of-Michigan puzzlement over why this guy is still behind bars for a non-violent drug conviction in a case prosecuted when he was a teenager.
Yet, “the system” won’t budge on granting Wershe parole. It’s not about his crime. Informant America has shown over and over and over in past months that the punishment in the Wershe case doesn’t fit the crime. His case is deeper than that. He embarrassed powerful people. He exposed corruption in Detroit black power politics. He cost powerful people a lot of money. That is why Rick Wershe remains in prison.
There’s a long list of people of power who should feel shame over the Wershe case:
- Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
- Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
- Michigan Court of Appeals Chief Judge Michael Talbot
- The entire Michigan Supreme Court
- U.S. District Court judge Gordon Quist
- The federal narcs and Detroit cops who falsely conned the news media into believing Wershe was a “drug lord” and “kingpin.”
What the puzzled—shall we call them the puzzlerati?—don’t understand is the power dynamic of politics in Detroit and Michigan. Even lifelong residents of Michigan may not understand how power really works in the Great Lakes State.
Power politics in Michigan is about black and white—as in race. But it’s not as simple as black and white.
Black political power resides in Detroit—and stops at Eight Mile Road. White political power in Michigan is mostly rural and “outstate.” It, too, stops at Eight Mile Road. The two racially divided political factions are, by default, at odds with one another, but sometimes they accommodate one another.
Such is the case with Rick Wershe. The Michigan white political faction loves to appear tough on crime. It’s a crowd-pleaser at election time. Most of “outstate” Michigan regards Detroit as a cesspool of crime and depravity. So if the black political faction wants some guy to rot in prison, the white political faction is only too happy to oblige and look the other way regarding facts and truth. Sacrificing one white guy to appease Detroit’s black politicians who are hell-bent on revenge is an easy political choice for politicians and judges outside of Wayne County. It's an easy favor to "them."
|Coleman A. Young - It started with him.|
The split power equation in Michigan politics goes back to the mayoral regime of Coleman A. Young, Detroit’s first black mayor. He gets the credit or the blame, depending on how you look at it.
When Young won the mayoral contest in 1973, it was the passing of political power in Detroit from whites to blacks and Young knew it. He also understood how power politics works. He had studied and admired the enormous power wielded by Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley. Daley was white but that didn’t matter to Young. Daley had enormous power and that did matter to Young. Coleman Young understood that power is, well, power. He also understood the value of political loyalty as part of the power equation. Thus, Young allowed public corruption to fester all around him. He let his key loyalists loot the city treasury, rob the citizens, as long as they remained loyal to him in all things political.
There are plenty of whites who fed at the Coleman Young corruption trough, too. As I said above, it’s not as simple as black and white.
The black political machine of Detroit wants Wershe to rot in prison until he dies for helping the detested and despised FBI expose and prosecute drug corruption in the Detroit Police Department—Coleman Young’s police department. Wershe was 14 when the FBI recruited him because he lived in the city and knew the wrong people. For roughly two years young Rick Wershe was a secret FBI informant who told on the Curry Brothers, a major east side drug gang with family ties to Mayor Young. The mayor eventually discovered Wershe’s secret role. Young hated FBI "stool pigeons" and Rick Wershe was no exception. People around Young knew how he felt about Rick Wershe.
Wershe also told the FBI about Detroit Police Homicide Inspector Gil Hill, who Johnnie Curry bribed to make the investigation of the murder of a 13-year old boy go away. Curry’s gang had inadvertently killed the boy in a money dispute with the child’s uncle.
The FBI stayed on Hill’s trail for years but never accumulated enough evidence for a slam-dunk conviction. That’s what’s needed if you are going to successfully prosecute a onetime movie star and community hero like Gil Hill, who went on to win election to the Detroit City Council and eventually became its president.
Gil Hill, who died earlier this year without facing prosecution, knew Rick Wershe was the source of his behind-the-scenes torment by the FBI and he never forgot it. When Wershe came up for a parole hearing in 2003, Hill pulled out all the stops, called in a bunch of IOUs, and rigged the hearing to bury Wershe alive.
One of the smears against Wershe was a letter to the parole board written by then-prosecutor Michael Duggan. The letter is full of falsehoods and blatant distortions of the court record in Wershe’s case. The letter said Wershe is a menace to society.
The previous post on Informant America was the complete text of my sworn affidavit to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which I submitted recently as part of a long civil rights court struggle Wershe and his lawyer Ralph Musilli are waging over the issue of parole and whether Wershe has ever had a fair and meaningful chance at one. (See Vince Wade’s sworn affidavitregarding Richard J. Wershe, Jr., aka White Boy Rick.) The affidavit challenges—with provable facts—the crock of crap in the Duggan letter to the parole board about Wershe.
I took it upon myself to bring this to the appeals court’s attention because someone needs to expose the lies and slander in the Mike Duggan letter, which has been used repeatedly by the Michigan Attorney General as an “exhibit” in court in arguing that Wershe should remain behind bars. That letter has far more influence than the other “evidence” against the inmate known in the media as White Boy Rick. The letter was written by a politician who is now the mayor of the City of Detroit. In the court system, that carries weight.
A parole board member from western Michigan may not know who Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is, or even know the name White Boy Rick. But that member knows who Mike Duggan is.
A federal judge in Grand Rapids may not know who Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is, or even know the name White Boy Rick. But that judge knows who Mike Duggan is.
Mayor Duggan has been able to dodge and duck the Wershe controversy for far too long. He played a major role in keeping Wershe in prison to this day. Duggan needs to be held accountable—today.
Readers of Detroit’s two main newspapers—the Free Press and Detroit News—might conclude Informant America is off the deep end in crusading for the parole of Rick Wershe, and that the blog is wrong in claiming widespread systemic corruption is at work in keeping him behind bars. As far as readers of those papers know, the criminal justice “system” in Michigan is just fine.
That’s not the view beyond the rose-colored windows of the Free Press and News.
One of the editorials in today’s—9/11/2016—edition of the New York Times is headlined, “Michigan Prosecutors Defy the Supreme Court.”
The editorial begins with a question: “Why are Michigan’s prosecutors ignoring the Supreme Court?” The editorial explores the dig-in-their-heels resistance of Michigan prosecutors, Kym Worthy of Wayne County and Jessica Cooper of Oakland County in particular, in refusing to follow U.S. Supreme Court dictates that juveniles convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole be re-sentenced and given the chance for parole.
The Times’ editorial board apparently doesn’t understand Michigan’s prosecutors are largely a bunch of vote-grubbing lawyers who see “tough-on-crime” as an easy way to win re-election and keep feeding at the public trough for their pay. Most voters have no clue whether their county prosecutor is doing a good job—a fair job—and it shows in the continued re-election of these “tough on crime” champions of justice, or more accurately, champions of punishment.
As the Times editorial notes, "...young people are biologically and psychologically different from adults. They are more impulsive and more prone to change as their brains continue to develop.
“When it comes to driving, voting and buying alcohol, society recognizes these realities; so should the criminal justice system."
Rick Wershe was 17 when he was arrested, 18 when he was sent to prison for life. At age 47 Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is not Ricky Wershe, he's not White Boy Rick, the cocky young kid who went down the wrong road.
Kym Worthy knows this. Bill Schuette knows this. Mike Duggan knows this. The appellate court judges know this. But the continued imprisonment of the man the media likes to slander as White Boy Rick isn’t about rehabilitation and correction. It’s about corrupt politicians and a corrupt state criminal justice system continuing a vendetta in behalf of a couple of dead black politicians who wanted revenge—and got it.