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‘White Boy Rick’ scheduled to meet with parole board

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Convicted Detroit drug dealer Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. could be closer to a release from prison.

Wershe is scheduled to meet with a member of the Michigan Parole Board in February, his longtime attorney Ralph Musilli told The Detroit News Monday.

“I fully expect he will be released on parole this time,” Musilli said.

Wershe has spent nearly 29 years behind prison walls for distributing drugs when he was a teen. He was 17 when he was sentenced to life behind bars without parole for possession to deliver more than 650 grams of a controlled substance. His sentence was later amended to life with the possibility of parole.

Lawyers and supporters of Wershe, now 47, say he was used as a drug informant by federal agents when he was 14.

Musilli said Wershe will meet with a member of the parole board on Feb. 13 through a video hookup from the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee. Wershe was scheduled to come up for another hearing before the full parole board in December 2017.

“I believe they will this time schedule it for a public hearing,” said Musilli. “I think (a possible parole) will be before June. This is pretty big stuff. Whoever is responsible for this: Thank You.”

Musilli said if the parole board moves in favor or paroling Wershe, it will be long overdue.

“This man can get his life back,” he said.

Earlier this month, lawyers filed briefs in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan requesting that the court reconsider his 1988 life sentence on the drug conviction and “reverse the orders of the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court and remand the matter to trial court for immediate resentencing.”

In the Dec. 6 petition, attorney Paul C. Louisell called Wershe’s mandatory life sentence without parole unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s and the Michigan Constitution’s prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. The brief also asserts that parole proceedings haven’t “taken into consideration petitioner’s youthfulness at the time of his offense or his demonstrated rehabilitation, growth and maturity.”

In June, Wershe was denied an opportunity to be resentenced following a Michigan Supreme Court ruling. The justices wrote they were “not persuaded that the question should be reviewed by this court.”

Musilli has argued Wershe has been in prison close to three decades on a “lifer” criminal drug law that has since been abolished by the nation’s highest court.

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


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Detroit News writer Candice Williams contributed