Rick Wershe Jr. says he's 'at peace' after long prison stay

The Detroit News

Richard Wershe Jr. is "at peace" and plans to work for prison reform now that he's a free man after 32 years, the onetime Detroit drug dealer told a British newspaper in his first interview since his release from prison last month.

Wershe, who was freed from prison in Florida last month, told the Daily Mail he wants others convicted of nonviolent felonies to avoid his fate.

"You tell me how it's right that I served 32 years for a non-violent crime and someone who has raped or killed walks free in a few years," he said. "Did I do something wrong? Absolutely. But where is the equity in a system that puts non-violent criminals away while killers walk free?

Rick Wershe Jr.

'I'm working to advocate for people who are in the same situation as I was — non-violent offenders who are in maximum security prisons or serving substantial sentences beyond what they should be," Wershe told the newspaper. "Where is the equity in justice? That's what I want to advocate for."

Despite his decades behind bars, Wershe said, "I can tell you this, I have more peace in my life now than I've ever had."

He added: "I have been made to feel welcome and accepted. I wasn't sure it would be that way. But a lot of people seem to feel and see I had a rough deal. I go to pay for a meal, and someone recognizes me as 'White Boy Rick,' and they say, 'I got this.'"

Wershe, a reputed onetime FBI informant who sold drugs in Detroit as a teenager in the 1980s, is 51 and has three grown children and six grandchildren.

Richard Wershe Jr. in 1987. He said he hopes the film clears up the “myth” of him being a larger-than-life drug dealer.

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 a 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. He was sentenced the next year to life in prison.

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.

He was released by Florida corrections authorities July 20.

At the time of his release, Wershe's longtime attorney Ralph Musilli said Wershe planned to return to Michigan, where his mother, sister and his son are living.