Court dismisses Richard Wershe Jr.’s lawsuit against Detroit, citing statute of limitations

Wershe, formerly White Boy Rick, sued city after prison release

Richard Wershe Jr. at a news conference on July 20, 2021 (WDIV)

DETROIT – A federal court on Monday decided to dismiss two lawsuits brought by Richard Wershe Jr., formerly known as White Boy Rick, who sued Detroit and federal law enforcement for their alleged roles in his 32-year imprisonment.

The U.S. District Court for Southeastern Michigan on Monday, Sept. 18, dismissed two lawsuits filed by Wershe in 2021, a year after he was released from prison. Wershe was seeking damages from the city of Detroit, law enforcement officers, federal agents and attorneys who he claimed played roles in getting him to and keeping him in prison.

Wershe is known for serving as the youngest FBI informant ever at 14 years old. He helped bring down some of Detroit’s biggest drug dealers before becoming a dealer himself years later.

When he was 17 years old in 1987, Wershe was locked up, initially sentenced to life in prison. He ultimately earned his parole in 2017, and was released from prison in July 2020 after three decades behind bars.

Wershe is the longest-serving nonviolent juvenile offender in Michigan history.

Following his release, Wershe was outspoken against the city of Detroit and federal law enforcement officers, accusing them of child abuse for “using” him as an informant while he was 14-16 years old, and “thrusting him” into the world of drug trafficking. In his lawsuit against Detroit, Wershe sought $100 million in damages on the basis that he was coerced into assisting police while he was an unsuspecting teen.

The city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Wershe could not legally seek claims against the city due to its 2013 bankruptcy filing. Under a court order, anyone seeking damages from the city was required to file their claims by Feb. 21, 2014.

According to court documents, anyone who did not file a claim against the city prior to the 2014 deadline will be “forever barred” from “asserting any claim against the city or property of the city.” In a court document filed on Jan. 4, 2022, the city argued that Wershe does not have a case because he did not file claims against the city prior to the Feb. 2014 filing deadline.

The city also argued that Wershe’s civil rights claims were beyond their statute of limitations -- and the U.S. District Court agreed with that point in its decision filed on Monday.

According to the court, the statute of limitations on civil rights claims is three years from the last known grievance. Though Wershe’s claims were related to several grievances in the 1980s and ‘90s, there was one claim referencing a situation in 2003 -- meaning, the court found Wershe would have had to file his lawsuits by 2006. They were filed in 2021.

There are instances in which someone can file a civil rights lawsuit after the statute of limitations, but that person must meet certain criteria that reflect extraordinary circumstances. The federal court found that Wershe did not meet that criteria.

You can read the court’s entire Sept. 18 opinion below.

About the Author:

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