(WWJ) A parole board on Friday granted Rick Wershe, aka White Boy Rick, a public hearing in 30 to 45 days in Lansing that will determine if he emerges from prison for the first time in nearly 30 years.
The board’s decision to allow a hearing is a step on the possible road to freedom, and the first green light Wershe has faced in decades behind bars.
The hearing will allow supporters and enemies to weigh in on whether the nonviolent drug offender, convicted at 17 years old, should be released. The prosecutor has said he would not object at the hearing to setting Wershe free, leaving the possibility high that he’ll finally leave prison.
WDIV talked to him before the hearing and said he hadn’t been able to sleep for days leading up to the parole hearing. If he’s released, he has said he would first visit his grandparent’s grave, then visit his mom.
He would be emerging into a very different world than the one he left. Wershe first tangled with the law when he infiltrated local drug gangs at the tender age of 13 as an informant at the request of Detroit police and FBI agents. He ended up turning in evidence that convicted 14 dealers and gangsters, including some of the biggest drug dealers in Detroit history.
Supporters say that as a direct result of Wershe’s help the FBI was able to infiltrate a gang of Detroit cops that was transporting drugs from the Wayne County Airport to the streets of the city’s east side.
He was also dealing drugs on his own, police said. The then-baby-faced teen was convicted and sentenced to mandatory life prison under the state’s then-strict cocaine dealing laws. Wershe was convicted under Michigan’s since-abolished 650-Lifer Law that said anyone found guilty of possessing greater than 650 grams of cocaine would receive an automatic life sentence without the chance of parole.
Since then, the life sentence requirement was eliminated, replaced with a 20-year-mandatory minimum. It was later loosened further, and any mandatory minimum sentence was eliminated.
Still, Wershe remains behind bars.
The parole hearing comes as Matthew McConaughey works the media circuit to talk up his role in a new Hollywood movie featuring Wershe’s story. McConaughey plays his father.
The movie starts shooting later this spring and promises to tell the world the story of White Boy Rick while depicting 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic.