"White Boy Rick" Doc Sets The Record Straight On The Urban Legend

By Paul Gaita 05/11/18

White Boy examines how Richard Wershe Jr. became the longest-serving juvenile offender in Michigan correctional facility history.

Richard Wershe Jr
Photo via YouTube

A trailer has been released for the upcoming documentary White Boy, which looks into the facts behind the case of Richard Wershe, Jr., the Michigan teenager and federal informant known as "White Boy Rick" who was sentenced to life without parole in 1988 for his alleged role in a drug-dealing operation.

The documentary, directed by Shawn Rech (A Murder in the Park and the upcoming Convicting a Murderer for Netflix), will be available for download on iTunes on May 29.

White Boy is the latest film project to examine the case that led to Wershe, Jr.'s controversial sentence, which only recently concluded – in part - when the Michigan Parole Board granted him a release in September 2017 after 29 years in prison (he is currently serving time in Florida for a separate charge until approximately 2021).

The long-gestating biopic White Boy Rick, from producer Darren Aronofsky and starring Matthew McConaughey as Wershe, Jr.'s father, has been scheduled for release on September 21.

The trailer uses vintage archival footage and new interviews, including journalists, federal agents and alleged hit men, to make a case for alleged ethical violations in the Detroit justice system as one of the core factors in Wershe, Jr.'s sentence, which at the time of its conclusion in 2017, had minted him as the longest-serving non-violent juvenile offender in Michigan correctional facility history; as one interview subject noted, "Third world countries don't incarcerate like this."

A teenaged Wershe, Jr. is also glimpsed in footage from an interview, where he declares, "I've been involved in wrong-doings [sic], but I don't feel I did anything to deserve a life sentence."

Wershe, Jr. stood by that statement for almost three decades; in a 2015 interview from prison with The Fix, he said, "As far as why I'm still in jail, I think because of all the lies and misinformation what was placed on the record. I honestly believe it's because of my cooperation with the government that people are keeping me in prison."

According to Wershe, Jr., he been groomed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) at the age of 14, and with the help of the Detroit police and FBI, was thrust into the Detroit drug trade to provide information on some of its heaviest hitters, including Johnny Curry and members of the Best Friends gang.

Both Curry and Best Friends member Nate Craft received paroles before completing their sentences, but Wershe, Jr. remained behind bars in Detroit until 2017.

White Boy is now available for pre-order on iTunes before its release on all digital platforms on June 5.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.