Wayne County to review ‘White Boy Rick’ drug sentence

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The Wayne County Prosecutor said Friday she will re-evaluate her opposition to requests to resentence convicted drug dealer Richard Wershe Jr., whose case has enthralled Metro Detroiters for decades.

“Having been immersed in the juvenile life without parole murder cases for the last six months, I have noted parallels to the Richard Wershe case that have caused me to review the office position in his case,” Kym Worthy said.

Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s longtime attorney said Friday evening he is encouraged by Worthy’s statement.

“It’s a major change in her position,” he said.

It would be ideal, Musilli said, if Worthy would ask Gov. Rick Snyder to commute Wershe’s sentence on drug dealing or even write a favorable recommendation to the 12-member Michigan prison parole board when Wershe’s case comes before it next year.

Added Worthy Friday evening: “It is important to note that only the Michigan Parole Board determines who does or doesn’t receive parole.”

Wershe’s next scheduled parole board hearing is in December 2017. He was turned down for parole in 2003, 2007 and 2012.

Musilli said “it’s been a long, long road” for Wershe on his journey for freedom. A journey that in June looked hopeless when the Michigan Supreme Court denied Wershe a chance to be resentenced writing they were “not persuaded that the question should be reviewed by this court.”

Musilli has argued his client has been in prison close to three decades on a “lifer” criminal drug law that has since been abolished by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, the High Court abolished so-called “lifer” laws for juveniles, calling them “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Musilli says the state Supreme Court should have realized Wershe should be resentenced based on new sentencing guidelines.

“Hundreds of other cases have been remanded back on the sentencing guidelines,” Musilli said last month after the state’s high court ruling. “And the court can’t find an issue here. Is this ridiculous or what?”

Last September, Wershe lost a bid in the Michigan Court of Appeals to have his life sentence reduced. The three-judge panel reversed Wayne Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway’s decision to grant Wershe the chance to be resentenced.

Wershe’s attorneys have argued he has been in prison for 28 years on a “lifer” criminal drug law that has since been abolished.

Wershe, 46, was sentenced at age 17 to a life sentence without parole in 1988 for possession to deliver more than 650 grams of a controlled substance.

In the mid- and late 1980s, Wershe was a fresh-faced teen who wore a page-boy hairdo and snappy suits while dealing drugs on the city’s east side, according to police. Authorities allege he joined the drug trade at age 14. But, Musilli said, Wershe was working as an informant for the federal government and Detroit police as a young teen.

Musilli said Friday he hasn’t spoken to Wershe, but says he plans to Monday.

Musilli said he and Wershe are not giving up.

“How can you give up on a man’s life,” he said. “He went in prison at 18 years old on a non-violent crime. You can’t just let this guy stay in prison. Some of the people he helped police and the FBI put in prison are out of prison now. They have been out for 10 years.”


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