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Former Michigan Parole Board member speaks in support of 'White Boy Rick'

DETROIT – A former Michigan Parole Board member says there isn't any reason why convicted drug dealer "White Boy Rick" Wershe should still be in prison.

Robert Aguirre says the decision to deny Wershe was "wrong."

"I voted to have Rick Wershe released," said Aguirre. "It made sense. There was no reason in this world that he should still be there. What the powers are behind it, I can't speak to."

In 2010, Aguirre said the 10-member parole board voted on whether or not to give Wershe a hearing.

"It was a close vote," he said. "The board voted not to allow him to have another public hearing, and that ended the case."

When Wershe was 14 years old, he began working as a police informant and was paid for information on drug dealers. With his help, police busted several suspects. However, when he was 17, he was caught selling eight kilos of cocaine. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

From prison, Wershe, now 45, told Local 4 Defender Kevin Dietz that while he made some poor decisions as a youth, he doesn't believe he still should be paying for it decades later – especially since he had a relationship with police who could have spoken on his behalf.

"I was stupid," he said.

Over the years, Wershe said he's seen both non-violent and violent offenders released while his request for parole was denied in 2003. That was his only hearing before the parole board.

Wershe has been imprisoned longer than any non-violent juvenile offender in Michigan history. The cost to taxpayers? Approximately $800,000 and counting.

"They stab people in prison and commit violent acts in prison … and they're paroled," Wershe said. "Why am I so different? That is the question I have to ask. What makes me so different than anyone else that they parole?"

Aguirre, who is also a retired police officer, said he doesn't have an answer for Wershe's question.

"I've released people who were armed robbers, someone that committed a murder," Aguirre said.

Both Wershe's drug case and also a single car theft case he was involved in are classified as non-violent crimes, Aguirre said.

In 2012, board member Barbara Sampson reviewed Wershe's file, but did not give him a hearing.

Wershe's attorney, Ralph Musilli, said he's more than suspicious.

"Murderers are out after 15, 16, 17 years. He's been there for 27 years," Musilli said.

Wershe's relationship with police led to the arrests of more than a dozen people, including former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's niece, brother-in-law and bodyguard.

Musilli said he believes the parole board has red flagged Wershe's release, because he has helped take down powerful people.

"My impression is that they were never really going to let him out," Musilli said.

Among those who believe Wershe deserves to be released on parole is Greg Schwartz, a former FBI agent Wershe worked for as an informant.

Schwartz said every dangerous criminal Wershe helped put away has been released from prison, and he believes it's time to release Wershe.

"The only individual who is still sitting behind bars is Rick, because he was the source, and for some reason the parole board doesn't like that," Schwartz said.

Wershe doesn't deny the crimes he was convicted of, but he said he believes he's done the time.

"I think it is going to take something from the governor. I don't think the Michigan Parole Board will ever give me a fair shake," he said.

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm denied Wershe's request for parole and current Gov. Rick Snyder has not acted on requests for parole. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is filing paperwork to fight Wershe's attempt to have another parole hearing.

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