Good behavior, remorse cited in Wershe parole

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Richard Wershe Jr.’s remorse and good behavior played a role in the Michigan Parole Board’s decision last week to parole him from his life sentence for drug dealing in Detroit, according to documents obtained by The Detroit News.

“(Wershe) was open about his offense and he was able to describe the impact of his criminal actions,” according to a Notice of Decision from the parole board. “He expressed remorse. His prison adjustment has been excellent with no ... tickets while incarcerated in the (Michigan Department of Corrections),” reads the section of the report titled Parole Board Member Impressions.

The report adds that Wershe “has strong community support” and “I do not believe that Prisoner Wershe would pose to be a risk to parole at this time.”

The 10-member parole board decided unanimously during an executive session July 14 to grant parole to Wershe, 47, who has been behind bars since 1988.

The report, which includes transcripts of Wershe’s June 8 parole hearing, was released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Corrections in response to a Freedom of Information Request from The News.

Parole board members noted that Wershe “has remained misconduct free during his entire sentence with the MDOC which begin in 1988, Wershe has main-tained steady employment and has never been a management problem. ”

The report also indicated that Wershe is in protective custody and has been in “temp seg” since 2008, but no reason was given.

The report stated Wershe has “no major misconduct tickets while incarcerated in a Michigan prison” but cited reports of fighting and gambling in the federal prison system while he was in federal protective custody in the early 2000s.

Wershe’s longtime lawyer, Ralph Musilli, said Thursday he was not surprised by the information in the report.

“That’s about what we expected. That’s great,” said Musilli. “Now we have to take care of the Florida issue.”

The 29-page Notice of Decision also includes remarks Wershe made during his parole hearing at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson. During the hearing, he pleaded with two parole board members and an assistant Michigan attorney general to look favorably upon his request to be paroled.

“I know that I messed up,” Wershe told the panel. “ I can’t go back. I can (only) go forward. You will never see me again (if paroled).”

The public hearing lasted four hours and 15 minutes. During the hearing, Wershe was questioned about his role in Detroit’s burgeoning crack cocaine trade during the 1980s. Wershe testified that he was a teen with a lot of cash and purchased flashy clothes and expensive cars with some of the proceeds from his drug-dealing days.

In the report released Thursday, the parole board also noted Wershe has had a job working in the prisoner laundry for the past seven years.

“He received above average work reports,” the report said.

State corrections officials said Wershe can be released from Michigan’s custody as early as mid-August. However, he still faces the prospect of having to serve additional prison time in Florida.

Wershe was sentenced to serve five years in prison in Florida after he was convicted on racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering charges in 2006. The crimes happened while he was incarcerated in Florida as part of the federal witness protection program.

Florida authorities will be informed of his anticipated release and will be responsible for making arrangements for his transfer to serve his sentence there. Florida officials said Thursday there are no new developments in the case.

Musilli told The News he plans to file a motion to change Wershe’s five-year sentence to concurrent from consecutive which would allow him to be parole on time already served. Musilli says Wershe has about 22 months of the five-year sentence to serve out.

Wershe was convicted in 1988 of manufacturing/possession with intent to deliver more than 650 grams of cocaine. Under some of the conditions of his Michigan prison release, Wershe would serve 48 months on parole.

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