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State high court denies ‘White Boy Rick’ resentencing

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Convicted Detroit drug dealer Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. has been denied a chance to be resentenced following a ruling announced Thursday by the Michigan Supreme Court.

The justices wrote they are “not persuaded that the question should be reviewed by this court.”

It is the latest disappointment for Wershe and his lawyers. Last September, Wershe lost a bid in the Michigan Court of Appeals to have his life sentence reduced.

Wershe’s attorneys have argued he has been in prison close to three decades on a “lifer” criminal drug law that has since been abolished.

Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s longtime attorney, blasted the high court for its decision. He said he and Wershe’s appellate attorney might have to seek relief for Wershe from the federal courts.

Musilli said the Supreme Court should have realized that Wershe should be resentenced based on new sentencing guidelines.

“Hundreds of other cases have been remanded back on the sentencing guidelines,” Musilli said Thursday. “And the court can’t find an issue here. Is this ridiculous or what?”

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 abolished so-called “lifer” laws, calling them “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Musilli criticized the tersely written ruling, saying the justices didn’t even sign their names to it.

“This is a political decision,” he said. “This is not a legal decision. Who has this kind of power that they would do this? Everybody he helped put in jail ... they’re all out now.”

In an exclusive interview with WDIV-TV (Channel 4) reporter Kevin Dietz Thursday, Wershe expressed disappointment over the ruling.

“Most people are rewarded for their cooperation (with the federal government),” said Wershe from his prison cell referring to his cooperation as an alleged government information turning in drug lords and dirty cops. “I think I’m being punished for mine.”

Wershe thanked Wayne Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway for her ruling last September that he should be resentenced. Hathaway’s ruling was appealed by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals last a couple of weeks later.

“I still appreciate what she did. She tried to follow the law. I think she knows that it’s unjust that I’m still here,” Wershe said. “When they pulled the rug out, to be honest, I think they’re cowards.”

Wershe, 46, was sentenced in 1988 at age 17 to a life sentence without parole for possession to deliver more than 650 grams of a controlled substance. Musilli said under new sentencing guidelines Wershe would have received 1-3 years in prison.

Musilli said he planned to tell Wershe the bad news Thursday. He said he knows it will be crushing.

“How can it not be disappointing,” he asked. “He’s lived his life in an eight-by-10 cell for 28 years.”

In the mid- and late 1980s, Wershe was a fresh-faced teen who wore a page-boy hairdo and snappy suits while dealing drugs on the city’s east side, according to police. Authorities allege he joined the drug trade at age 14. But Musilli said Wershe was working as an informant for the federal government and Detroit police as a young teen.

Wershe was turned down for parole in 2003, 2007 and 2012. His next scheduled parole board hearing is in December 2017 which could provide Wershe with one of his last hopes for release from prison.

Justice Stephen Markman did not take part in deciding the case because of his past service as a U.S. Attorney during the time Wershe’s case was being heard in local courts and when Wershe allegedly worked as a federal drug informant.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com