Detroit historian: ‘White Boy Rick’ Wershe prison release ‘way overdue’

Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. to be released from prison Monday after 32 years

Richard "White Boy Rick" Wershe Jr. is set to be released from prison on Monday after 32 years behind bars.

DETROIT – Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. is set to be released from prison on Monday after 32 years behind bars.

Wershe was only 14 years old when he was recruited by the FBI in Detroit as a highly-paid, drug-dealing informant. He helped put a number of drug dealers and corrupt police officers in prison.

Then at the age of 17, Wershe himself was sent to prison for selling cocaine. Over the last 32 years, all of those criminals that did their time have been released -- yet Wershe still remained behind bars.

Though the story of White Boy Rick has been well-shared across Metro Detroit for decades, the story also made national headlines over the years. A film based on Wershe’s life titled “White Boy Rick” was released in 2018 with Matthew McConaughey starring as Wershe’s father, Richard Wershe Sr.

Detroit-based organized crime historian and true crime author Scott Burnstein says the end of Wershe’s decades-long sentence is “way overdue.”

“Today is a great day for truth, a great day for justice, a great day for vindication,” Burnstein said.

The author and historian has kept in touch with Wershe over the years and has studied his case extensively. Burstein even served as a consultant for the “White Boy Rick” film.

The true crime author believes that Wershe was jailed for an unjust length of time, especially considering the fact that he was groomed by the government at such an early age.

“Contrary to popular belief, Rick was not brought down on a kingpin statute, ... racketeering, ... (or) a continuing criminal enterprise statute -- Rick was arrested when he was 17 years old at a routine traffic stop where they found cocaine,” Burnstein said. “Under the law at that time, it was supposed to cost him the rest of his life, which is just ridiculous.

“When you add in the factors of all the mitigating circumstances considering that he was recruited out of eight grade and turned into a drug dealer, the U.S. government actually created the persona that is ‘White Boy Rick,‘” Burnstein added.

Burnstein believes that Wershe was kept behind bars for so long because he greatly upset the “Wayne County bureaucracy” while helping the FBI to dismantle a ring of corrupt officers in the Detroit Police Department. The author believes some of the individuals who are still alive were intent on burying Wershe “under the jail cell.”

Still, even though Wershe’s release from prison Monday is long-awaited by many, Burnstein says it is a special day for justice.

“I would like to think that, although justice moves slowly, ultimately it prevails,” Burstein said. “And today, it’s prevailing.”

  • You can watch Local 4′s full interview with Scott Burnstein in the video player above.

Ahead of his scheduled 10 a.m. release on Monday, Wershe has been housed at the Transition House in Kissimmee, Fla. after serving his jail time in Michigan as a nonviolent drug offender. He was released from the Oaks Correction Facility in Michigan in April 2017 and turned over to U.S. Marshals.

Worshe’s attorney says the newly-freed man plans to return to Michigan following his release.

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.

Rhonda Walker has been helping Detroiters get motivated and ready for the day for the past 22 years. A confessed morning person, this award winning talented and versatile journalist starts her day at 2:00 am to co-anchor the weekday morning newscast at WDIV-Local 4 News. A position she’s held since 2003.