White Boy Rick Is Not A Free Man...Yet

By Keri Blakinger 07/17/17

After 29 years behind bars, the longest-serving nonviolent juvenile prisoner in Michigan will soon be free.

Richard Wershe AKA White Boy Rick
Richard Wershe AKA White Boy Rick Photo via YouTube

After nearly three decades in prison, the ex-drug dealer known as White Boy Rick finally made parole last week—but he still might be years from freedom.

Richard Wershe, who was sentenced to life as a teenager after he was collared with around eight keys of coke, was granted parole Friday by a Michigan Parole Board. He could be released from the Great Lakes State’s custody as early as mid-August—but he still owes time in Florida as the result of racketeering charges racked up in prison in 2006. 

"At least he’ll have a light at the end of the tunnel," attorney Ralph Musilli told the Detroit Free Press after news broke of the board’s decision. "He’ll know exactly how long he has to serve and that will be the end of it.”

At this point, Wershe is the longest-serving nonviolent juvenile prisoner in Michigan.

The Detroit native got into the drug life after he started working as an FBI informant at 14, according to the Daily Beast. But then the feds, bowing to political pressure, dropped him as a source after he pointed fingers in a case involving links to high-profile figures in The Motor City. So Wershe turned to making money the only way he knew how: selling drugs.

“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,” he told The Fix in 2015.

He was initially sentenced to life under one of the nation’s most notorious drug war-era sentencing schemes, the 650-Life Law. The draconian measure called for an automatic life sentence for anyone caught with more than 650 grams of cocaine. The law has since been loosened and courts have ruled against mandatory life sentences for juveniles.

Even after his arrest, Wershe worked with authorities to land corrupt cops behind bars—but it didn’t net him the time cut he thought it might. Instead, he believes it may have worked against him, giving people in high places motivation to avoid his release.

“I honestly believe it’s because of my cooperation with the government that people are keeping me in prison,” Wershe said. 

Though his cooperation didn’t earn Wershe his freedom, it did get him a spot in the Witness Protection Program and a transfer to a Florida prison—where he hooked up with a stolen car ring out of Miami and caught himself another charge. The plan, he said, was just to help his sister make some quick cash to help take care of his son. 

But the car deals netted Wershe five more years in prison, though he has already served a little over a year of his Florida time. That means he’s got about three years and eight months left to serve—unless his lawyer can win him a sentence reduction from the Sunshine State.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.