White Boy Rick Is Still In Jail

By Seth Ferranti 05/15/15

Why is this man still in prison when murderers, rapists, drug kingpins and even the corrupt cops and drug dealers that he helped to put away are out?

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The story of Richard Wershe Jr., aka the infamous White Boy Rick, is convoluted to say the least. But the facts of the case that remain true are that he has been in jail since 1988 for a nonviolent drug offense committed while he was still a juvenile. Convicted under Michigan’s 650 Lifer Law, which has since been repealed, he is the only person still imprisoned under the old law. And everyone keeps asking: Why is this man still in prison when murderers, rapists, drug kingpins and even the corrupt cops and drug dealers that he helped to put away are out?

I didn’t realize when I was 17-years-old that I would end up in prison for the rest of my life for a drug offense.

“As far as why I'm still in jail, I think because of all the lies and misinformation that was placed on the record. I honestly believe it's because of my cooperation with the government that people are keeping me in prison.” Rick tells The Fix. Most people that cooperate with the government receive less time, but in Rick’s case it didn’t work that way. Ever since the War on Drugs started, informants have been law enforcement's edge to get convictions. Their help is usually rewarded with a sentence reduction, but in the White Boy Rick affair that hasn’t been the case.

“I met Rick Wershe when he was involved with the Curry Brothers,” said retired Special Agent Gregg Schwarz, who spent 30 years with the FBI and 10 years in Detroit. 

“He was always polite, street smart, and cooperative. I have now known him his whole adult life. He should have been released after 10 years like the Curry Brothers and all of the rest of the lowlifes that inhabit Detroit. Not him though, because of political and police corruption, he remains in 28 years for possession.” The Curry Brothers were the big eastside drug organization that was pushing heroin and cocaine that White Boy Rick infiltrated and helped to bring down. Retired FBI Agent Greg Schwarz was assigned to Detroit from 1980 to 1990 and on the front lines of the drug war. A war where Richard Wershe would turn out to be the victim.

“I didn’t realize when I was 17-years-old that I would end up in prison for the rest of my life for a drug offense,” Rick says to The Fix. “That part of your brain isn’t developed yet, where you weigh the consequences of what you are doing.” White Boy Rick was just a kid who was pushed into an informant's role by law enforcement. They used him and then spit him out, not even caring about what they created or how it all turned out.

“I was brought into this life by law enforcement, I was taught it, they left me alone and a year later I’m busted and put in jail for life,” Rick says. “But you let all these drug kingpins that cooperated and got seven years, 10 years, out. You give Colombian drug lords seven-year sentences because they cooperated with the government. You give mass murderers 12 years because they cooperated with the government.” Rick is frustrated and rightfully so. It has taken 25 years for his claims to come to light, and ever since he testified against police officers at the largest police corruption trial in Detroit history, law enforcement has been aligned against him.

“A long line of officers, who now admit they have lied over the years and performed favors for purposes of impressing the higher ranks, admit now he should have been released,” Schwarz says. “Apathy on the part of the Attorney General and governor remain his enemy and have blocked his release. This is now the number one case in America of parole board abuse and ignorance. This man has rights, but Michigan refuses to pay any attention. I am at a loss as to how to gain the attention of the citizens to bring this to the attention of the news media. Call the Office of the Governor and demand attention.”

The fact that White Boy Rick is still in prison is baffling to say the least. He sold drugs as a teenager, he cooperated in several investigations to bring down the biggest drug crews from the crack era—the Curry Brothers and the Best Friends—he even helped bring down corrupt cops, and yet he is still in prison? We asked Rick why he thinks he’s still inside. 

“I just think it's a combination of things. Like they got a vendetta against me. Or something personal. The police department, the mayor's brother-in-law, the mayor's chief of security. There’s no reason for me to still be in prison,” Rick tells The Fix. “I was a juvenile when I committed the crime. I sold drugs for a year. Everything else was at the government or the DPD’s request. 

"So what sense does it make for them to keep me in prison?” 

The media attention has been building slowly, but now it's at a crescendo. The Fix first covered the story in 2013 and Rick’s case has received a bunch of publicity since then. “I’m a one-man band here,” Ralph Musilli, Rick's lawyer says. “I got a small law office with five or six attorneys in it. I have been working this for 10 years. You got a gross injustice going on here and what I have been doing is trying to get the media interested in this and start beating the drum and shine a light on this. This case here, the Richard Wershe Jr. matter, is perhaps the biggest story of judicial and government injustice that exists in the country today.” And many concur.

“There's a lot of people trying to get me out,” Rick tells The Fix. “They see the injustice of what is going on. Theres a petition going around on Change.org. There's people from all over the world that have signed it. I’ve seen some of the signatures and where they’re from—Beverly Hills, California, Australia ... People realize, like Jesus Christ, you got this kid involved in these drugs. When you’re 14, 15 years old, you’re impressionable. Yeah, I was blinded by the money I got involved in it. They got me involved in it. They gave me the credibility to do what I did and now people are outraged by it.”  The dirty secrets of the drug war exposed.

“He has helped the government and they abandoned him and they are leaving him in jail to rot.” Musilli says. “You got people in Wayne County that said, 'You know what, Ricky boy? You cost us an awful lot of money and you broke up a drug ring that was making us fortunes and we’re going to make you pay and there’s nothing you can do about it.' The Curry Brothers are out already. They did about 14 years. Everybody is out but him. Their enforcer is out, he admitted to murders.” The parole can let Rick out but for some reason they won’t. 

“The Michigan Parole Board paroles people with worse cases than mine,” Rick says. “Nate Craft, from the Best Friends gang, admitted to 30 homicides and they paroled him in 17 years. You have guys that have huge federal cases and 650 lifer cases like mine and they are paroled the first time at the parole board.” But White Boy Rick still sits in jail.

“In 2003, he was given a parole hearing and we now know, everybody knows that they cheated on the parole hearing,” Musilli says. “They have flopped him every time since. His next parole hearing comes up in 2017. They’ve denied two commutation petitions. The parole board has refused to recommend commutation to two governors now. With no reasons given. I don’t have a good answer, I don’t think anyone has a good answer as to why he’s still there.” The Supreme Court has even ruled that life sentences for juveniles are against the law.

“In Wayne County there's someone somewhere telling them to keep me in prison,” Rick tells The Fix. “They're not even following the law. The United States Supreme Court in Florida v. Graham says a juvenile cannot have a life sentence without a meaningful opportunity of release. They're not giving me a meaningful opportunity of release or anything. It's going on 15 years, I’ve been up for parole three times. My next one is in 2017. About two years ago they didn’t give me parole when I should have got it.”

Just another casualty from the drug war. The feds and the state of Michigan just think they can cover it up and that no one will care, or do anything about it, but Rick’s lawyer and others have taken up the cause. “Right now his case is in the Western District of Michigan on a remand from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati,” Musilli says. “And the 6th Circuit told the Western District [to] make a decision as to whether this man has been given fair treatment. All the pleadings were filed as of last November 11 and they still haven’t ruled on it. Who wants him in? Good question. What the Attorney General is doing—the Attorney General for Michigan is blocking a parole hearing, is anybody’s guess.”

The tragic journey of White Boy Rick continues and will be on a Hollywood screen soon. Hopefully, he will be out in time to catch the movies being made about his life. If not, they can only help to put more pressure on Michigan state officials to re-examine his case and determine why he is still in prison, because as of right now nobody seems to know. 

“Why is he still there? That is the $64,000 question,” Musilli says. “Because somebody wants him there. It has nothing to do with the law. It has nothing to do with justice. It's probably about vengeance because he may have cost some people an awful lot of money. But there’s no legal reason for him to still be in jail. Theres no legal reason for the courts to not be issuing opinions in a timely manner. This whole thing has been a nightmare, it has wasted his whole life and nobody cares. I think they think they can outlast him. But as long as I’m alive the fight goes on.”

Seth Ferranti is a regular contributor to The Fix.

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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