DETROIT – The Michigan Parole Board has voted to grant Richard Wershe Jr., known as "White Boy Rick," parole after nearly 30 years in prison.
Wershe needed at least six of the 10 board members to support his plea for freedom. The 47-year-old was just 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a drug conviction. He has been the state of Michigan's longest serving nonviolent juvenile offender.
In a statement from his lawyer, Wershe said: "I'm coming home."
White Boy" Rick Wershe's sister spoke about her family's relief Friday after a parole board voted to release him from prison.
Wershe spent nearly 30 years behind bars, and Dawn Wershe said this day is long overdue.
"I'm overjoyed," Dawn Wershe said. "I expected it. I couldn't be happier."
Now that he has been granted parole, the earliest Wershe could get out of Michigan prison is in August. The Department of Corrections takes 30 days to make sure a parolee has an appropriate place to live and work.
Wershe said he was going through sleepless nights leading up to Friday's decision.
"Without the family and the outside support I have, I don't know if I would be the person I am today," Wershe said. "I mean, they keep me up. They keep me going. They keep hope alive. They give me faith that things are going to turn out alright, and I just have to take it day by day."
He's received support from thousands of strangers who believe his incarceration is cruel and unjust.
Wershe has prison sentence to serve in Florida
Despite his release from prison in Michigan, Wershe might still have to serve prison time in Florida for a crime he committed while behind bars.
He has been described as a model prisoner during his time behind bars, with one major exception. He pleaded guilty 11 years ago to racketeering and conspiracy to move stolen cars in Florida. He was sentenced to five years to be served after his release in Michigan.
Wershe still owes 22 months to the state of Florida after credit for his time served, but his attorney Ralp Musilli is going to ask Florida officials to change the sentence to concurrent instead of consecutive, which would mean his time in Michigan prison would count for the time owed in Florida.
Musilli is trying to have the crime forgiven, since Wershe has spent more than 29 years in prison for drugs and car theft. Musilli said Wershe should have been out several years ago, but unless he can convince Florida lawmakers to give his client a break, a Florida prison will be Wershe's next stop.
Wershe took plea bargain to spare sister, mother
"I introduced somebody," Wershe said about the crime. "My sister was given $6,000, and that is the extent of it."
During a previous interview, Wershe said it was an easy decision to plead guilty because it spared his mother and sister, who bought cars.
"I was told, 'You take a plea bargain, or I'm going to arrest your mom and your sister,'" Wershe said. "So what did I do? I took a plea bargain against my attorney's wishes."
'White Boy Rick' movie planned for next year
Meanwhile, the "White Boy Rick" film is set to be released Jan. 26, 2018. Matthew McConaughey is playing the role of Wershe's father, Richard Wershe Sr.
The accomplished actor spent 5 and 1/2 hours in Michigan prison to speak with Wershe earlier this year.
"He's just a genuine person and I'm glad that he's the one playing the part of my dad," Wershe said. "We talked about life in general, my family, spending all this time in here, life after getting out of here. It was good, just general conversation. He came up and said he wanted to meet me. I think he's real passionate about the story and he sees the injustice in it."
McConaughey talked to him about his childhood years and what his dad was like.
"We talked a little bit about how I was as a kid. We talked about my dad and how my dad was, you know, the good and the bad. It was good. It was a good conversation. It was awesome meeting him. I couldn't have had a better day, for a day in prison," he said.
The Hollywood actor is just a regular guy, Wershe said, and the talk made him feel even better about the movie.