A federal judge on Monday dismissed Richard Wershe Jr.'s lawsuits against the federal government and the city of Detroit, citing the statute of limitations.
Wershe, aka "White Boy Rick," alleged in two separate lawsuits that law enforcement illegally used him as underage informant in the 1980s and reneged on any deals to get him released from prison after his cooperation put drug dealers and bad cops behind bars. He alleged it all amounted to child abuse.
Wershe, 54, was initially sentenced as a teen to life without parole for cocaine trafficking in the late 1980s. It was later reduced to life with the possibility of parole. The state released him in 2017, but he was then sent to Florida to serve out a sentence for being involved in a car theft ring while in federal prison in the witness protection program.
He was finally set free in July 2020 at age 51.
In dismissing the lawsuits, U.S. District Court Judge Judge F. Kay Behm wrote that the "claims were untimely and barred by the relevant statutes of limitations."
The defendants also argued that Wershe fell short of what he needed to bypass the statute of limitations: timeliness and fear of retaliation.
“The plaintiff (did not) have a reasonable fear of retaliation that lasted for three decades,” Assistant U.S. attorney Jennifer Newby had argued.
Wershe was imprisoned for cocaine trafficking in the late 1980s as a teenager. While behind bars, he cooperated in an FBI sting by luring crooked Detroit and suburban cops to help assist in what they thought was a major drug operation. He also testified in a grand jury against the notoriously violent drug gang, Best Friends.
With all that help, Wershe never got a reduction of any time, which baffled a lot of former law enforcement people, journalists and lawyers. It is rare for someone to cooperate as much as he did, and get no cut in time.
Wershe and some of his supporters, which included former FBI agents, alleged that politics kept him behind bars. Besides cops, the FBI sting netted the arrest of Willie Volsan, Mayor Coleman A. Young's common-law brother in law, who eventually got prison time. Volsan's daughter Cathy was also arrested, but the charges were later dropped.
Mayor Young referred to him publicly as a "snitch."
For a long time, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy fought any attempts for Wershe to get paroled, insisting he was a threat to society. Some people accused her of carrying out the wishes of political allies.
Wershe was first used as an FBI informant at 14. His father was already an informant, and connected him with law enforcement. The younger Wershe knew a lot more about some drug traffickers on the streets, including the Curry Brothers drug organization, which law enforcement was targeting.
Wershe alleged in the lawsuit that law enforcement turned him on to a life of crime by having him make undercover buys at dope houses, and subsequently allowing him to sell some of the cocaine. He said they promised to get his sentence commuted, but never did.
At some point, he was shot with a .357 magnum which cut his intestines in half.
The suit alleged that he suffers from physical and psychological wounds including severe cases of anxiety, depression, paranoia, digestive issues and abdominal pain.
At a July 2021 press conference in Detroit announcing the first of two lawsuits, Wershe said his longterm imprisonment had robbed him of a good part of his life.
"It's been difficult," he said. "My father’s not here, a lot of my family members aren’t here, I didn’t get to see my kids grow up. ... I saw the world evolve, but I didn’t get to play any part of it. It’s almost like being dead."
I’m not going to say I’m not bitter at all. I’m bitter a little about missing out on my kids' lives. About not being able to see my father when he was dying. About not being able to be part of my mother’s life. I have grandkids that I’ve never met to this day because they live in another state."
The press was the one who dubbed him "White Boy Rick." For a long time he was unhappy with that because it made him sound more notorious, which he and others felt didn't help his chances of parole.
Today, he has embraced the name as a brand for his business.
In 2017, a documentary "White Boy" was made. It was directed by Shawn Rech, written by Brandon Kimber, Seth Ferranti, and Scott Burnstein, and produced by Transition Studios. In 2018, the movie "White Boy Rick," was released, starring Matthew McConaughey as Wershe's father, Richard Wershe Sr.
Of the two, the documentary was considered a far better production.