JACKSON (WWJ/AP) – A Detroit-area drug dealer got a chance to speak to members of the Michigan parole board after 29 years in prison for crimes when he was a teen.
Richard Wershe is appeared for a public hearing that lasted about four hours Thursday at a prison in Jackson. The 47-year-old, known as “White Boy Rick,” is serving a life sentence with occasional opportunities for parole.
The hearing came four months after Wershe had a one-hour interview with the parole board chairman.
Journalist Scott Burnstein, who was there for Thursday’s hearing, told WWJ Newsradio 950 he last talked to Wershe the previous night.
“He’s been very nervous,” Burnstein said. “I speak to him on a regular basis and I’ve noticed, naturally I believe, the last two, three months since he found out that he’d be getting a hearing he’s been very anxious, hasn’t been sleeping very well, knows that it’s his whole life riding on this hearing and the subsequent vote from the parole board. ”
Burnstein said board members asked a lot of questions and Wershe was forthright with his answers.
“He took a lot of responsibility and culpability for what he did and for the damage the stuff, the drugs that he was selling — the damage it did to the city, did to his neighborhood, did to his own family,” Burnstein said. “He sees the error of his ways and he wants to have an opportunity for a second chance and I believe it’s considerably overdue.”
Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy is taking a neutral position on Wershe’s release. It’s possible he could be sent to Florida to serve time for a crime there.
Wershe has been in prison since he was 18. He was convicted of possessing more than 650 grams of cocaine and given a life sentence. He’s been eligible for parole, but the board hasn’t released him. In 2015, a judge said Wershe was entitled to a shorter sentence, but that decision was overturned.
Wershe’s story made headlines around the world when he infiltrated local drug gangs at the tender age of 13 — at the request of Detroit police and FBI agents — and turned in evidence that convicted 14 dealers and gangsters, including some of the biggest drug dealers in Detroit history.
His longtime attorney claims that, as a direct result of Wershe’s help, the FBI was able to crack a gang of Detroit cops that was transporting drugs from the Wayne County Airport to the streets of the city’s east side.
The then-baby-faced teen was sentenced to mandatory life prison under the state’s strict cocaine dealing laws. The Michigan constitution was later amended to lighten up sentences for nonviolent offenders — yet Wershe’s release has continued to be denied.
The board is expected to reach a decision in a few months.
© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.