'White Boy Rick' Denied New Sentence After 28 Years Served

By Zachary Siegel 10/05/15

Richard Wershe vowed to keep on fighting, though the odds are still stacked against him.

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Richard Wershe Jr., also known as "White Boy Rick," has been in prison for nearly 30 years for crimes committed when he was a teenager.

Wershe, 46, went to prison at the age of 18 for being in possession of 650 grams (less than 1 kilogram) of cocaine. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But on Sept. 4, Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway said Wershe was entitled to a new sentence, citing his age at the time of his crime and his nearly 30 years served.

The Michigan Court of Appeals wasn’t buying it. "The trial court cannot set aside a valid sentence without a legal basis to do so, and as the trial court recognized, [Wershe's] sentence is not unconstitutional," said judges Kirsten Franz Kelly, Christopher Murray and Michael Talbot.

Wershe has long been cooperative with police investigations, even before his arrest. He aided FBI investigations into police corruption and drug traffic at the age of 14. Since his arrest, lawyers, and law enforcers have pleaded with then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm to release him. During her tenure as governor, she declined.

When changes in Michigan law recently made Wershe eligible for parole, the parole board continued to refuse his release.

Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s attorney, said of the parole board, "He's spent 28 years in (prison) while they've been paroling robbers, rapists and murderers."

Wershe has no history of violence and the crime for which he is still in jail is possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

With regard to his most recent attempt to gain freedom, Wershe said he was disappointed but not defeated. "After all this time in here you don't believe you are going to get out of here until the day you walk out of here,” he told WID-TV via phone from prison.

"I'll keep fighting until my dying breath," he added.

Musilli said he will try to take the case to Michigan Supreme Court and keep fighting for Wershe’s freedom.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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