City of Detroit asks judge to dismiss lawsuit filed by 'White Boy Rick'

The city of Detroit on Wednesday asked a federal bankruptcy judge to dismiss Richard Wershe Jr.'s lawsuit he filed last year alleging child abuse for his years as an informant for the city's police department.

During a hearing Tuesday before U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Thomas Tucker, attorney Marc Swanson argued that Wershe's $100 million lawsuit against the city should be dismissed because he filed it too late to meet the statute of limitations under the city's bankruptcy.

Swanson said the deadline for filing under the city's bankruptcy rules was 2014. The city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July of 2013.

Richard Wershe Jr., center, a former FBI and Detroit police informant known as "White Boy Rick," attended a press conference with friends and family at the Penobscot Building, in Detroit on July 20, 2021, to announce a lawsuit against former FBI agents and Detroit police for alleged child abuse. Wershe spent 32 years in prison after a drug trafficking arrest at 17 years old in 1987. The city is seeking to have it dismissed, arguing Wershe waited too long to file the lawsuit.

Wershe's attorney Nabih Ayad filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit last July on the one-year anniversary of his famous client's release from prison after 32 years.

The suit accused former FBI agents, ex-Detroit police officers and former federal prosecutors of child abuse in connection with his time as an informant when Wershe was a teen. Known as "White Boy Rick," he became an informant at age 14 and was sentenced in 1988 at the age of 17 to life in prison on a drug conviction in Wayne County.

He was released from a Michigan prison in 2017 but was sent to Florida to serve a sentence in connection with a car theft ring he was accused of being part of when he was in the federal witness protection program in a Florida prison.

Ayad told Tucker that Wershe, 52, would have sued the city earlier but was in fear of retaliation and that a lawsuit would end any chance of release from prison. Ayad said a federal district judge should rule on whether the lawsuit should go forward and that could determine if the city's motion to dismiss is moot.

Wershe, said Ayad, has an "excusable neglect" defense for filing last year. 

"Here's an individual who was in the witness protection program for 15 years, had three assassination attempts on his life and was in the 'hole' for 16 months," Ayad said. "...this individual was broken down and demeaned," he added, referring to Wershe's 16 months in solitary confinement.

Swanson pushed back against that claim.

"There is no credible reason for the delay," said Swanson, who added that Wershe's claims could delay the distribution of payments for other claimants for years. "Mr. Wershe has not acted in good faith. When he did file he filed in district court. He has not done anything in bankruptcy court."

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court but the city filed the motion to dismiss the case in bankruptcy court in order to have it considered as part of the city's bankruptcy filings, Ayad told The Detroit News.

A spokesperson for the city did not respond to a message from The News.

"He was the youngest informant in the history of the FBI," said Ayad. "If that is not excusable neglect then I don't know what is."

Tucker said he would take the arguments under advisement and issue an opinion in writing. The judge did not set a timetable for that ruling. 

The motion only applies to the City of Detroit and not the other defendants in the lawsuit.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com