Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Moment of Truth for White Boy Rick: Richard Wershe’s Parole Hearing Is At Hand

The years of waiting are over. On Thursday, June 8, 2017, the Michigan Parole Board will hold a public hearing on the issue of parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—the longest serving inmate for a non-violent drug crime committed as a juvenile. Wershe has been locked up for 29 years, the victim of a criminal justice system vendetta against someone who told on the wrong people—people in political power. Here’s what to expect:

The day Richard J. Wershe, Jr. has dreamed about, prayed for, longed for, will arrive later this week. After 29 years in prison on a life sentence for possession of cocaine, Wershe will get his first meaningful chance at parole. The Michigan Parole Board has voted to consider granting him parole.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr. - Hoping for parole after 29 years. (MDOC photo)

He had a parole hearing in 2003, but that was a sham, a go-through-the-motions kangaroo court staged to give the appearance of a consideration of parole. It was far from it.

The Michigan criminal justice system—from Detroit to Lansing—was furious that Wershe had told the FBI about political and police drug corruption in Detroit. Wershe had told the feds how the late Gil Hill, the former Inspector in charge of Homicide and later Detroit City Council President, had been paid off by the Johnny Curry drug gang to ensure a homicide investigation did not find the true killers of a 13-year old boy, Damion Lucas, who had been killed mistakenly by two members of the Curry organization.

For a $10-thousand-dollar bribe, Hill focused the investigation on an innocent man, who was released after months of intense behind-the-scenes intrigue between the FBI, the Detroit Police and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office. The Detroit Police Department, through Hill and other top command personnel, obstructed justice to protect the Curry gang because Johnny Curry was married to the niece of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, one of the most powerful and feared politicians in the city’s history. In 2003, the powers-that-be manipulated Wershe’s parole hearing to ensure he stayed in prison. It was retribution for daring to tell the FBI about the sewer of corruption flowing through Detroit’s criminal justice system. The 1985 Damion Lucas killing has never been solved and prosecuted.

None of that will matter on Thursday. This parole hearing is sure to be different. The first thing to know is this: no decision is expected that day. There will be no immediate vote on parole for Wershe. The full board will be given a written transcript of the hearing and the full board will vote after considering the transcript. The full board has to vote. That’s the way it is in lifer cases.

The only expected witness is Wershe himself. Two members of the Parole Board, chair Michael Eagen and Member Sharon Wilson, will conduct the hearing. An assistant state attorney general will ask questions. The Michigan Attorney General is the official lawyer for the Parole Board.

Wershe is expected to be contrite and remorseful. He will tell the Board he was brought up in a dysfunctional family with no meaningful parental supervision. His parents divorced after a stormy, violent marriage. Wershe’s mother left Rick and his sister Dawn with their father, a man with a violent temper and dreams of becoming a self-made millionaire. Success eluded him and he was seldom home. 

When the FBI came around looking to recruit 14-year old Ricky to be a secret informant against the Curry drug gang, Richard Wershe, Sr. readily agreed to let his son enter a dangerous arrangement no responsible and caring parent would accept. Rick’s late father saw an opportunity to make another quick buck.

Wershe is expected to recite all of this to the Parole Board as he did in 2003. "I really didn't have any parental supervision at the time," Wershe testified 14 years ago. "I was basically raising myself and I went down some wrong paths."

If Wershe is bitter toward his parents, he hides it, for the most part. But there is no doubt he understands he is, in a sense, a victim of his childhood. "I went down the wrong path and I grew up in prison" he testified in 2003. "I had no one there to guide me other than older people who were all criminals their selves."

The Parole Board will hear or read in reports that Wershe has been what amounts to a model prisoner. He doesn’t get in trouble and strives to get along with everyone. He got his high-school diploma equivalency while he was behind bars. He has taken every course and counseling opportunity provided to him.

The Parole Board won’t hear testimony about how federal and local narcs in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) used their teen informant and then kicked him to the curb when they made their case against the Curry gang. 

Wershe was suddenly without a source of money and without a viable trade. He turned to the only trade he knew. 
The one law enforcement had taught him. He tried to become a big-time drug dealer—and got caught before he could make the big leagues.                                                         

The media helped bury him behind bars by relentlessly calling him White Boy Rick. Gullible reporters bought the dubious prosecution tale that this white kid somehow ruled the roost in Detroit's murderous drug trade; that prison-hardened adult black men were taking orders from a white kid who couldn't even grow a decent moustache. Newspaper and TV reporters never questioned the evidence for the claim that Wershe was a "drug lord" and a "kingpin." The image of a white teen Godfather of drugs in the black ghetto was too sensational to ignore.

Wershe is expected to say he understands the gravity of his brief life of crime. He is expected to say he has done all he can to prepare for life on the outside. He has lots of people willing to help him and he doesn’t lack for employment opportunities. Hollywood has become interested in him thanks to a movie about his strange tale, that is now in production.

Wershe’s attorney, Ralph Musilli, hopes the hearing will be brief. That means less pages that have to be transcribed. That means the full Parole Board can vote sooner, perhaps at their meeting in July.                                                 

Maybe the legend of White Boy Rick is about to end.
Maybe the rest of the life of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is about to begin.


Parole Hearing for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
Date: June 8, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility
the T-100 Training Center (limited seating available)
Address: 3500 N. Elm Rd. Jackson, MI 49201
This is a correctional facility with commensurate security measures. Cell phones and recording devices will not be permitted.

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