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Rick Wershe Jr. released from prison after more than 30 years

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

After a long legal fight that stretched over many years, Richard Wershe Jr. is a free man.

The former reputed FBI informant known as "White Boy Rick" spent more than three decades behind bars serving a life sentence on a drug conviction when he was sentencedat age 17 in a Wayne County courtroomin 1988.

"Richard Wershe was released today from TTH of Kissimmee Community Release Center after completing his sentence in accordance with Florida law," according to a Monday statement from the Florida Department of Corrections.

The statement added "Mr. Wershe has not received any disciplinary actions while incarcerated with the Florida Department of Corrections."

Wershe, in his 2017 interview, said he's a different person than when he went into prison decades ago.

"The older you get, you have a different outlook on life and different things are important to you," said Wershe, who added he wants to write screen plays. "Now what's important to me is going out and  doing something to be proud of and make the people that stood up for me make them proud and not let them down."

Wershe went into prison as a teen and came out from behind bars Monday as a 51-year-old father of three grown children and a grandfather of  six.

During his time in prison, Wershe's father, Richard Wershe Sr., died  and his mother is now ill.

Paroled in Michigan in 2017, Wershe was sent to Florida to serve time for a 2006 conviction stemming from his role in a car theft ring. The crimes happened while he was incarcerated in Florida as part of the federal witness protection program.

Wershe told The Detroit News in an interview three years ago from behind bars that he missed a lot of time with his two daughters and son, who are all in their 30s, while locked up.

"I've lost a lot of my life to things that aren't true," Wershe said at the time. "I was never the drug dealer ... who was this huge kingpin. That couldn't be more wrong. I sold drugs for 11 months."

Wershe is expected to return to Michigan, where his mother, sister and his son are living. His two daughters live out of state, Wershe said three years ago.Wershe and some friends are driving back to Detroit, said his longtime attorney Ralph Mussilli. 

The lengthy prison term Wershe served was "inexcusable," Mussilli said, adding that others who "figured" in the drug trade on Detroit's east side spent "half" of the time in prison as Wershe.

"His whole life has gone by for God's sake," said Mussilli, who first represented Wershe when he was 15. "That's inexcusable. It really is. He was not involved in any violence at all."

During the interview, Wershe said he has options about where he would go once he was let out of prison. He said he'd been offered to live with the Hollywood producers of the movie based on his life.

Paroled in Michigan in 2017, Wershe was sent to Florida to serve time for a 2006 conviction stemming from his role in a car theft ring. The offense occurred  while he was incarcerated in Florida as part of the federal witness protection program.

Wershe's career as a drug runner and FBI informant was told on the big screen in 2018 in the Hollywood movie, "White Boy Rick," starring mega-star Matthew McConaughey. A documentary titled "White Boy," by Shawn Rech, also told Wershe's story.

Authorities say Wershe  rose to become a ranking drug lord in one of Detroit's roughest neighborhoods, but his supporters, lawyers and retired FBI agents have said he risked his life as an informant who helped to put away the city's most notorious drug kingpins.

In the  2017 phone interview with The Detroit News, Wershe said he was “brought” into a lifestyle of drugs by the agents and police who used him as an informant from 1984 to 1986. He was shot in the stomach during those years and said he had stopped selling drugs by the time he was 16.

In 1987, when Wershe was arrested, he had 9,000 grams of cocaine and $30,000 in cash on him. 

Weshe said the moniker "White Boy Rick" was a "myth" that was perpetuated through media reports and that he was known as "Ricky" in his neighborhood.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com