DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A Detroit-area drug dealer who has spent nearly 30 years in prison for crimes going back to his teen years will face a resentencing hearing later this month, where a judge could reconsider his life sentence.
Forty-six-year-old Richard Wershe Jr. appeared briefly Friday morning before Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway.READ MORE: Teen Dead, Another Injured Following Golf Cart Crash
In a hearing that took only about five minutes, Judge Hathaway said a Supreme Court ruling regarding juveniles forces her to resentence Wershe, who was 18-years-old when he was convicted on drug charges. She set a resentencing date of September 18, over the objections of prosecutors who say they plan to appeal.
“This decision is based on the wealth of case law governing juvenile offenders and the evolution of the drug crime penalties since the defendant was incarcerated,” Hathaway said. “Based on my reading of the briefs, all parties agree the defendant’s original sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a juvenile who committed a non-violent offense involving drugs was unconstitutional.”
Wershe’s mother, Darlene McCormick, spoke with WWJ’s Charlie Langton after the hearing. She’s cautiously optimistic that her son will be a free man soon.
“I just don’t feel that he needs to be in there any longer. There’s been many people that have murdered 10 or 12 people and are out, and they didn’t even do a third of the time that he’s done,” she said. “I know he wants out and he’s tired of dealing with everything, but he’s just praying for the best.”
Wershe, known as “White Boy Rick,” was arrested in 1987. Prosecutors at the time said he had cocaine before his arrest but dumped it in a neighbor’s yard before being apprehended.
“He got in with the wrong people. If he had been living — his father and I were divorced and his father kept the kids — and if he had been with me, it would never have happened,” said McCormick.
Wershe was convicted of possessing more than 650 grams of cocaine and was 18 when sentenced to life in prison without parole. Changes in Michigan’s drug law made him eligible for parole, but all of his requests have been denied.READ MORE: Video Shows Rescue Of 10-year-old Boy From Raging Water In Alpena
Defense attorney Ralph Musilli says his sentence is unconstitutional.
“The best argument I have is I just had a Circuit Court Judge rule that he should be out — and Circuit Court Judges have removed presidents from the United States from their seats — they certainly should be able to get Richard Wershe out of the Oaks Correctional Facility,” said Musilli.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy opposes resentencing and argues that the sentence is lawful.
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.
Musilli claims that, as a direct result of Wershe’s help, the FBI was able to infiltrate a gang of Detroit police officers 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 in the days before the Supreme Court ruled that sentences like Michigan’s mandatory life for dealing large amounts of cocaine – were too harsh. The Michigan constitution was later amended to lighten up sentences for nonviolent offenders.
If Hathaway decides to release Wershe — he could be out by Christmas.MORE NEWS: Key Insider: 2 Men Were 'Very Eager' To Kidnap Gov. Whitmer
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