Drug dealer ‘White Boy Rick’ up for parole again

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Detroit drug dealer “White Boy Rick” will get his first parole hearing since 2003, after he was sentenced to life in prison for possession of cocaine in 1988.

The state parole board voted Friday in Lansing to set up a public hearing for Richard Wershe Jr., 47, more commonly known as “White Boy Rick.” His last high-profile hearing was 14 years ago, which Detroit area singer Kid Rock attended.

Prison officials are expected to confirm the date and time of the public hearing next week, said Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz. The hearing will likely take place in early June.

Wershe was up for parole twice since his 2003 public hearing but was denied both times and not granted a hearing for both of them.

But there is a chance that even if he were granted parole, Wershe may be headed to a Florida prison. He was convicted in 2006 of felony racketeering conduct while behind bars in Florida, Gautz said. Wershe had been moved to Florida from Michigan for his protection, he said.

Florida officials will decide what would happen if Wershe is granted parole in Michigan.

On April 19, prison officials will send notices to the successor judge, prosecutor, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the prisoner notifying them that a public hearing is being scheduled. The notice also informs the successor judge and prosecutor they have 30 days to file comments or objections.

Gautz said officials have notified Wershe of the decision. He said the Attorney General’s office is also aware, and officials will soon notify the prosecutor and judge.

Before Wershe’s first 2003 hearing, “he was sentenced basically to die in prison,” Gautz said. “We expect there’ll be quite a few individuals at this meeting, too.”

In Michigan, those sentenced to life in prison can be considered for parole every five years, but the state’s parole board doesn’t always grant a public hearing.

Authorities say Wershe was a Detroit drug kingpin during the 1980s crack epidemic when he was arrested at age 17. His defenders have argued that Wershe was a one-time paid informant for the Detroit Police Department and that there were far worse drug dealers in the city who served less time.

Now, Wershe’s life story will be retold in a major film with Matthew McConaughey as Wershe’s father. It’s expected to be in theaters in January. The movie is looking for actors.