There are many controversies surrounding the case of Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick—who is serving a life prison term for a non-violent drug offense committed when he was a teenager. One contentious issue was his arrest in May, 1987 on charges of possession of over 650 grams of cocaine. What really happened? At his parole hearing last month Wershe explained, under oath, step-by-step, what went down that night.
The first thing to know before reading any further is that Rick Wershe, Jr. is not, and never has been, one of those Innocence Project inmates. Wershe admits he was involved in crime as a juvenile. He admits he wanted to be a big-time drug dealer. (He never made it, despite his reputation in the media.) But there’s another side to the story and it’s a big BUT.
|Rick Wershe, Jr. with his mother Darlene at Oaks Correctional facility. He's waiting for the Parole Board to decide on his petition for parole from his life sentence in a 1988 drug case. A decision is expected this month or next.|
As noted on this blog many times, Rick Wershe, Jr. was recruited into the drug world at age 14 by FBI agents in pursuit of the Curry Brothers drug gang on Detroit’s east side. He was recruited as a Confidential Informant. Wershe had not been part of the dope scene before that, but he lived in a racially mixed neighborhood, he was street-wise and he knew the Currys.
When the feds made their case against the Currys, they dropped their kid-informant, who was used to living a fast life on FBI and Detroit Police cash. Being a fully immature teen, Rick got the stupid idea that he ought to try his hand at becoming a big-time drug dealer, too.
The night of his fateful arrest, Wershe testified he was on his way to his grandmother’s house to pick up two kilos of cocaine he had stored there for a buyer named Brian McClendon, who had already paid him for the dope.
On the way to get the cocaine and deliver it to McClendon, who was following in another car, Wershe and his friend Roy Grisson, who was driving, were stopped by Detroit Police officers Jeffrey Clyburn and Rodney Grandison.
Wershe testified: “I knew Grandison very well.” Interestingly, in the parole hearing, Assistant State Attorney General Scott Rothermel, who seemed to want to fly-speck every aspect of Wershe’s time as a drug dealer said: “I’m not interested in that narrative.”
That may be because Rothermel, the seeker-of-truth-if-it-suits-his-line-of-questioning, didn’t want it to come out that FBI agent Herman Groman, who was present at the parole hearing, had proved with a tape-recorded telephone conversation that Grandison had lied—a felony—at Wershe’s drug trial. Introducing that would be messy. It would call in to question Wershe's conviction because a key witness committed perjury. Theoretically, it could re-open Wershe's drug conviction, and then where would the criminal justice system be? The system that has kept him in prison for 29 years based on that court conviction?
Grandison testified at Wershe's trial that he’d never met Wershe before that night. When Groman was working with Wershe at Marquette prison in 1990 to set up a sting operation that netted convictions of a batch of corrupt cops, Groman arranged to have Wershe call Grandison at home on a pretext. The phone conversation was unimportant, but it established beyond all doubt that Police Officer Rodney Grandison knew Rick Wershe, Jr. and he had perjured himself on the witness stand. If Rothermel had allowed Wershe to explain, he would have testified that Grandison used to invite him to his home often to smoke weed.
Wershe and Grisson didn’t have any drugs in the car when the police stopped them. But they had money, a lot of it.
There was $34,000 in cash in a plastic grocery shopping bag. More on the amount later.
The police spotted the cash on the floorboard of the car and confiscated it. They had no warrant to do so and there was no probable cause to believe a crime had been committed.
It was a warm night and when the police stopped the car in front of Wershe’s grandmother’s house, Richard Wershe, Sr. came out to see what the commotion was about. Wershe Sr. grabbed the bag of cash from the police in a scuffle. Rick’s sister Dawn grabbed the cash and ran in to grandma’s house with it.
Rick Wershe, Jr., meanwhile, walked away while his family and the police were fighting over the cash. He was not carrying anything. But that quickly changed. Wershe said he went to his grandmother’s detached garage and got a box of drugs that had arrived that day.
Wershe’s pal, the late Steve Rousell, had put the drugs in the garage after a shipment had arrived that day from Miami.
Somehow, Wershe managed to take the box of drugs to the next block and hid it under a residential porch without getting his fingerprints or palm prints on the box.
“We were in a panic,” Wershe testified. He admits he encountered Camden Street residents Greg and Patricia Story but, counter to testimony at the trial, Rick says he did not have a conversation with them and he denies offering Patricia Story five-hundred dollars to keep the box hidden.
“I was on the porch, trying to look inconspicuous,” Wershe said.
It didn’t work. The police arrived about ten minutes later on foot and took Wershe in to custody. He testified they put him in handcuffs and walked him between the houses back to Hampshire Street where the traffic-stop and scuffle occurred.
There was a fence between the houses. Wershe says Grandison pulled him over the fence gate by a gold chain around Wershe’s neck, then threw him to the ground. “He pistol-whipped me," Wershe testified. His eye socket was shattered and Wershe wound up going to the hospital instead of jail.
The neighbors eventually found the box of drugs and called the police, and some narcs came and took custody of the drugs about an hour after the incident occurred.
Wershe admits he has changed his story over the years and he suggested he once told a different version under oath because a lawyer was trying to help him win an appeal. He says what he told the Parole Board on June 8th was the absolute truth.
Now. About that bag of money in the car when the police stopped Wershe and Grisson. Wershe testified the bag contained $34,000. It was money that Brian McClendon had paid him for two keys of coke.
But the police report after the incident said $29,000 was confiscated when Wershe was arrested.
What happened, Wershe was asked at his parole hearing, to the difference between the $34,000 that he was paid and the $29,000 the police turned in? “You have to ask the Detroit Police that,” Wershe said, without cracking a smile.
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