DETROIT – Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. has waited a long time for this day. He walks free from prison after 30 years Monday.
UPDATE July 20, 2020: ‘White Boy Rick’ Wershe is free man after 32 years behind bars
He is not an innocent victim in this story. Wershe admitted he did some bad things, but the severity of his punishment has baffled most observers. How did it get to this point?
Complete Coverage: White Boy Rick
In 1984, Wershe was a high school freshman. He was already connected in the drug world by way of his father, a paid informant for the FBI.
He knew faces and names, so the feds put 14-year-old Rick to work. He is the youngest known FBI informant on record.
Young Rick worked his way into a major Detroit drug ring run by a man named Johnny Curry.
Curry didn’t know that Wershe was already an informant for the FBI.
Wershe’s information would send Curry and several members of his drug organization to prison.
At 16, the government no longer had a use for Wershe, so the cash payments stopped, but they had given him a taste for money and he began selling drugs.
At 17, Wershe was busted for selling 8 kilos of cocaine and was sentenced to life in prison.
After 15 years in prison, Michigan law changed. It no longer allowed a life sentence without parole for a minor convicted of a drug charge and Wershe had a chance for parole. He had helped the government convict a lot of criminals including a dozen dirty cops, it was time to collect on the promises to help him.
That help never came.
Wershe and many others are convinced he stayed locked up because he helped take down some powerful people. Who were those powerful people? Wershe had given the FBI information that led to the arrest of family and friends of one time Detroit mayor Coleman A. Young.
In 2003, Wershe was denied parole.
In 2017, the Local 4 Defenders shined a spotlight on Rick Wershe’s case and stirred national interest in what many people saw as injustice. After nearly 30 years in prison, the man known as White Boy Rick was granted parole.
However, prison time was not over for Wershe. Back in 2006, he pleaded guilty to being involved in a Florida car theft ring from behind bars.
Wershe was moved from a Michigan prison to a cell in Florida to serve an additional five years. He said he pleaded guilty to participating in a car-theft ring in order to spare his sister and mother from being charged.
When the Florida State Board of Executive Clemency board met in 2019, retired FBI agent Herman Groman spoke for Wershe. He argued that the three decades Wershe served as a juvenile nonviolent offender was out of proportion to his crime and that Wershe infiltrated a violent drug gang, leading to the convictions of 20 people.
“I believe a great injustice to Richard Wershe has been done by the government,” Groman, said. “He has never been recognized because of this.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shot down any chance for Wershe’s early release.
After 32 years behind bars, Wershe’s time in prison is done.
Wershe will be released from a halfway house in Kissimmee. It’s believed that he will return to Michigan to begin his new life.
If you’d like to take a deep dive into the twisting tale of Rick Wershe, check out the podcast series “Shattered: White Boy Rick.”