EAST PALAKATA, Fla. – The Florida State Board of Executive Clemency is considering a clemency request for Rick Wershe Jr., known as "White Boy Rick," after a meeting on Wednesday morning.
Wershe Jr. could be released from prison early. At the hearing, two retired FBI agents told the board Wershe deserves early release because of all he did for the government, including assistance on several public corruption cases while behind bars.
“I believe a great injustice to Richard Wershe has been done by the government,” said ex-agent Herman Groman, who said Wershe infiltrated a violent Detroit drug gang and helped prosecutors convict 20 people in the 1980s. “He has never been recognized because of this.”
Added former agent Gregg Schwartz: “He has never lied to me about anything. I fully recommend for clemency. He’s contributed greatly to law enforcement.”
The board said they would take the case under consideration. It's unclear when a decision will be announced.
DeSantis, a Republican chairing his first clemency hearing since taking office, appeared to express skepticism. The governor noted that Wershe got involved in a car theft ring involving some 150 stolen vehicles while behind bars serving his drug sentence.
“He had been helping you guys and then turned around and engaged in additional criminal conduct,” DeSantis said.
“You need to look at the totality of everything he has done over 32 years,” Schwartz replied.
Attorney General Ashley Moody, a former judge and prosecutor, told the agents it “speaks volumes” that they showed up for Wershe but did not indicate if she supports early prison release.
DeSantis told reporters before the board meeting that he has an open mind on all clemency cases.
“You know, I want there to be a rough equality of justice here. Not all cases are exactly the same,” the governor said. “I do believe in redemption and that does play a role.”
Wershe Jr. has been behind bars in Florida since being granted parole by the Michigan Parole Board back in 2017. At the time of his parole, he owed 22 months to the state of Florida after credit for time served for a racketeering and conspiracy charge to move stolen cars in the state.
Wershe Jr. is currently scheduled to be released on Oct. 26, 2020, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
Wershe was the longest-serving nonviolent juvenile offender in Michigan history. Arrested at 17 years old for drug offenses, he was locked up in Michigan until age 48.
At the age of 14, Detroit police were paying Wershe to rat-out neighborhood drug dealers. When Wershe was 17, someone he snitched on got suspicious and had him shot. Detroit police abandoned him, so he started selling drugs for real, and in a year's time he was caught, convicted and nicknamed "White Boy Rick."
In 1988, Wershe was a juvenile convicted of possessing more than 650 grams of cocaine. His sentence was life in prison.
Wershe, now 49 years old, is being housed at the Reception and Medical Center state prison in Lake Butler, Fla. after spending nearly three decades behind bars 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. He was booked in at the Florida prison in September 2017.