(WWJ) A man who spent his youth in the back alleys of Detroit ensnared in a life of crime will soon be free to become a law-abiding soccer dad, worried about the grandkids’ homework and mowing the lawn.
What’s next for one of Michigan’s most notorious convicts, Rick “White Boy” Wershe? That’s a question yet to be answered. The Michigan Parole Board voted Friday to release Wershe, 46, who has been in prison for close to 30 years for drug crimes committed as a teenager.
At the time he was sent to prison at 17, he was already a father to two, with a third on the way.
“Imagine, it just, it stuns to think about that,” his attorney Ralph Musilli told WWJ. “And so now he has a chance of living the rest of his life as a normal human being.”
Musilli said he called Wershe immediately after the parole board announced its decision and said simply, “we won.” “He is just overwhelmed and relieved,” the attorney said. “I mean this is just a total emotional release for him. I don’t think anybody can imagine spending 30 years out of the middle of your life in 8 by 10 cells.”
Mandatory drug sentencing laws that have since been overturned kept him behind bars longer than some who had committed brutal murder. There was also talk that politicians and cops who felt betrayed when he switched from high-level juvenile drug informant to street dealer worked to keep him behind bars.
“It’s the rainbow at the end of just a horrific three decades of imprisonment and I think he said it best, I would the last, at least the least 20 years he’s been doing time for the crime he wasn’t convicted of, and that’s unfortunate part.”
So Wershe will be a free man, but will he be safe? Wershe’s friend Scott Burnstein, who is also a reporter, author, and local mob expert, thinks he’ll have to stay alert.
“All things being even, he’s definitely got to be more careful than the average Joe, the average person coming out of prison that doesn’t have the notoriety he has,” Burnstein said. “He upset a lot of people back then and when he was locked up, cooperating with the government. He cooperated with the government for three years when he was a teenager and he cooperated again for another dozen years when he was in prison.”
In June, Wershe told the parole board he was rehabilitated and knows drugs destroy communities. He gave a rare interview to the Detroit news in February where he said he regretted his youthful actions. “I was a child. You brought me into a lifestyle. I was blinded by the money. I was blinded by the women. Do I regret it? Absolutely.”
The movie of his life, starring Matthew McConaughey, is set for release in January.
And there’s still the matter of charges he faces in Florida. Wershe pleaded guilty 11 years ago to racketeering and conspiracy to move stolen cars in Florida. A crime he committed while locked up. A motion to set him free without serving additional time for the Florida charges is pending in the sunshine state and Musilli hopes a judge will rule that time was served concurrently with his Michigan sentence.
“If I was a betting man, I would say he’s probably going to have to go down to Florida and finish out two years there,” Burnstein said. “Hopefully not, but I would guess that’s probably where it’s headed right now. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen.”