DETROIT – Richard Wershe Jr. faced a critical parole hearing June 8 as he tries to take the next major step toward freedom.
"White Boy" Rick Wershe is serving a lifetime sentence for possessing more than 650 grams of cocaine in 1988. He has spent the past 29 years behind bars as a nonviolent juvenile offender.
He went through an intense four-hour parole hearing in Jackson, Michigan, with two members of the parole board and Assistant Attorney General Scott Rothermel.
It was Wershe's first parole hearing in 14 years, and he admitted to pretty much everything police accused him of doing. But at the same time, he said he has been fully rehabilitated during his long prison stay.
"All I can do is try to be the best man I can be from this day forward," he said. "I can't look back."
However, Rothermel did look back.
"Tell the truth. We can see right through the lies," Rothermel said.
Wershe testified that on May 22, 1987, at the age of 17, he was in a car which was pulled over by Detroit police. Inside the car was a clear plastic bag with about $30,000. Wershe, now 47 years old, admitted the money was given to him in exchange for cocaine. He said he ran from police to his grandmother's garage where the cocaine was hidden. He grabbed a box with 8 kilos of cocaine and hit it under a porch a few streets away. Then he apologized and insisted that today he despises drugs more than anyone.
"I know that the drugs I sold destroyed people's lives, destroyed the community, cost me 30 years of my life," he said. "I feel I have done the time and have been rehabilitated. I wouldn't return to that life."
In Wershe's favor, federal officials said he did more to help police bust dirty cops and drug dealers than any other informant in Michigan history.
"Rick Wershe played a pivotal role in introducing the undercover agent, which led to the arrest and conviction of a number of corrupt police officers," retired FBI Agent Herman Groman said.
"I've never seen anybody cooperate like Richard Wershe," retired FBI Agent Gregg Schwarz said. "He literally had the safety of undercover agents in the palm of his hand."
Wershe told the parole board about raising money from behind bars for poor families in Detroit, and promised that if he's released, he'll never commit another crime.
"I feel positive that they are going to parole Rick, and I'm just going to have to keep my faith until they make that decision," Dawn Wershe, Rick Wershe's sister, said.
The Attorney General's Office warned the board to be wary of a man who committed serious drug crimes as a child and new crimes from behind bars.
The whole ordeal left Wershe's mother, Darlene McCormick, feeling nervous.
"He deserves to be out," McCormick said. "I've been to visit him many times and had compliments from guards on how good he is, and he needs to get out."
The meeting got heated when the attorney for the Attorney General's Office accused Wershe of being involved in trying to traffic cocaine from behind bars. Wershe vehemently denied the allegation and they almost had to take a break from the meeting. Kevin Dietz has more on that portion of the hearing in the video below.
Will Wershe's parole be denied for lying over many years, or will he be rewarded for finally telling the truth? The parole board will take a vote in early July to determine his fate. There are 10 members on the board, so Wershe needs 10 votes to be released.