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.
Rick Wershe’s Next Big Challenge—Life on the Outside
unanimous decision, the 10-member Michigan Parole Board voted on Friday to
grant parole to Richard J. Wershe, Jr., Michigan’s longest-serving prisoner for
a non-violent drug offense committed when he was a juvenile. He has served
29-and-a-half years of a life sentence. He may have to do some time in Florida
for an old auto theft fraud case before he tastes freedom, but sooner or later
Wershe will face another big challenge: Life on the outside.
The world has changed since Rick Wershe was last a part of it.
Rick Wershe’s many supporters—and there are many—have rightfully
been celebrating since the Michigan Parole Board finally decided to deliver some
long overdue justice. Wershe has served far more time than truly big-time drug
dealers and drug-world hitmen, guys who kill people for money. All of them do
ten or twelve years and they’re out.
As Informant America has reported many
times over the last two years, Rick Wershe was a political prisoner. He was
recruited as an FBI informant at age 14 and he became too good at it. He became
known in the media as White Boy Rick. He told the FBI about the drug corruption
of politically-connected and politically-powerful people in Detroit and Wayne
County. Those people fought to keep Wershe in prison until he dies. This is
covered in a piece I wrote for The Daily Beast.
All of that is over now. He could taste the fresh air of
freedom as soon as the middle of August. This, by the way, is the normal
process. If the Parole Board votes to give an inmate parole, the inmate doesn’t
pack up and check out the same day. A parole officer must be assigned and that
parole officer is required to investigate what Rick Wershe intends to do on the
outside, where he intends to live, and with whom. The parole officer must
interview the people Rick Wershe will live with and impress upon them the
importance of not having any firearms in the same house, and certainly no
drugs. All of this takes time. We’re talking about a bureaucracy, after all.
For an inmate who has been granted a parole, all that matters is that vote by
the Board. A few more weeks is nothing.
Rick Wershe has a case in Florida hanging over his head,
and it may mean another delay in his release, but that will be addressed in
another blog post.
For now, let us consider this: when he gets out, Rick Wershe
faces a whole new set of challenges. He’s going to have to learn how to live on
the outside. He’s been in prison his entire adult life. He’s never been a free
adult. Think about that. Think about the adjustment he is going to have to
make. The “system” has no mechanism to help him with that. He will be on his
own. It is hoped that his many supporters will help him with that, too. That’s
what this blog post will explore.
The first thing for Wershe’s family and friends to know is
this: he needs protection. I'm not talking about protection from the criminals he knew in the past. I’m talking about hustlers and hucksters who hope to make a fast
buck off of him.
Here’s an example: on Friday, after the news of his parole
broke, some guy called Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s attorney, and wanted to start a
business selling their autographs. Really. There are going to be all kinds like
that coming out of the woodwork. They will try to track him down and pester
him with crackpot ideas on how to make money off his notoriety.
Don’t get me wrong. Rick Wershe can take care of himself. He
has spent three decades in the prison system. But the sheer volume of nut jobs
and opportunists who see dollar signs when they see his name may be a bit much
for even a street-savvy guy like Wershe. He has several job offers awaiting him
and the last thing he needs is one of these creeps showing up at his job with a
scheme to make money off the White Boy Rick legend.
Rick Wershe is going to face a world very different from
the one he knew in 1988. When he went behind bars, Ronald Reagan was President.
Gulf War I and Gulf War II hadn’t happened yet. Neither had the war in
Afghanistan. Neither had the presidency of Bill Clinton. No one knew who Monica
Lewinsky was. No one had heard the President referred to as Dubya. No one had ever heard of Barack Obama.
There were still phone booths on many street corners.
Internet Web browsers and search engines hadn’t been invented yet. No one had
ever heard of Google, Amazon or Netflix. Fox News was non-existent in 1988. Talent-challenged
Kim Kardashian was not yet famous for being famous.
Rick Wershe certainly knows about all these things. He’s
been in prison but not in solitary confinement. Still, the man became an adult
in prison. He’s never had to cope with the day to day bullshit the rest of us
accept as normal. People who consider themselves his friends can do a lot by
helping him make the transition to life, a whole new life, on the outside. As
he said last week when talking about his legendary past, White Boy Rick is
This morning (Sunday,
July 16th) I received an email from Rick Wershe that I think needs
to be shared with his family, friends and supporters. Communication with him is
challenging and slow, so I haven’t asked his permission to share this. But
under the circumstances, I’m going to bet Rick won’t mind if I let all of you
know what he had to say.
A couple of notes about
The “Mr. Eagen” he refers to is Michael Eagen, the chair of the
Michigan Parole Board. Eagen took the unusual step of personally interviewing Rick at length one-to-one last February. At the end of that interview Eagen told Rick he
handled himself well and indicated he was favorably impressed. It gave Rick his
first dose of optimism about the system in three decades.
His reference to Judge Hathaway is Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway, who took over the Wershe case after his original trial judge retired. Judge Hathaway had the courage to take a second look at the Rick Wershe case and she concluded that, under current law, his sentence should be revised to essentially time-served. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy threw a fit and fought it all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, which cravenly refused to review the matter. That left Wershe in limbo.
Ironically, that cowardly decision by Michigan's highest court seemed to energize and motivate many people to demand justice. Suddenly, the Wershe case became politically HOT. Kym Worthy, facing considerable heat, moved to 'no position' and didn't object to parole. We saw the end result in the Parole Board vote this past Friday.
What follows is Rick Wershe's email to me verbatim:
Vince yes WOW it feels so surreal it hasn't sunk in yet!!! 10 my way!
Eagen has restored my faith that there are still good honest people in the
system. Everything he told me he did!!! That has never happened to me in 30
years!!! I am at a loss for words at how highly I think of him!!! If I could
see him I would just say thank you and I will never let you down! He's right up
there with how highly I think of Judge Hathaway!!!
Vince, this shit is finally over! And the stars are finally shining on me! I am
just so happy!
you and everyone else who helped expose their lies and cover-ups along the
care, all the best!!!
Rick makes a good point.
Michael Eagen did the right thing in a system that has done the wrong thing for
a long, long time. He deserves credit for it. All supporters of Rick should
consider sending Eagen a short note thanking him for standing up for what is
right and finally delivering justice in the Richard Wershe case. Guys like
Eagen don’t get thanked very often. Here’s how to contact him: