'White Boy Rick': The amazing true story behind Matthew McCounaghey's latest movie
Richard Wershe Jr. aka White Boy Rick, although in custody for drug possession, served as an FBI informant for years
'White Boy Rick' is no ordinary story. A convicted drug dealer arrested back in 1987 for the possession of maybe a little more than eight kilos of cocaine, Richard Wershe Jr. aka White Boy Rick is still behind bars. While it is being contemplated that Rick will probably be released by 2020, his story comes out a lot sooner and candidly reveals the underlining truth of the legal system.
In March 2013, FAMM (short for Families Against Mandatory Minimums) President Julie Stewart marked the 10th anniversary of Michigan's decision to overthrow the infamous 650 Lifer Law (also known as the Rockefeller drug laws). Being nothing less than a homicidal treatment, the law stated that the penalty for selling two ounces (57g) or more of any drug (such as heroin, cocaine, or crack) would lead up to a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 25 years to life imprisonment.
In 1996, FAMM spearheaded a board of civil rights organizations and other activist bodies to uproot the law, and two years later the modifications for the law were signed by Republican Governor John Engler.
Wershe is just one of the thousands convicted under the law. However, what sets him apart from the other convicts is that Wershe actually had no choice but to dabble in the drug trade. You might say that they are all compelled to take up a crime, but for Wershe it was more of an introduction.
As the son of Richard Wershe Sr. who was himself involved in the gun trade back in the 1980's East Side, Rick was introduced to the world of mafias, drug lords, and goons at a very early age. While he knew exactly where the real money was (crack-cocaine), it wasn't long before he was known to be an acquaintance of the notorious drug lord, John Curry.
It didn't take Rick long to become the center of the business and the FBI used the opportunity to recruit him as their youngest informant. Wershe Sr. too had served as an informant to the FBI in his days, and it was he who pushed his son forward. Although no information about Rick working for the FBI was given out during his trials, he is possibly now the only remaining culprit of the drug epidemic still behind the bars. Both Rick and his father had given out a plethora of information to the FBI about the Curry brothers, including their infamous murder of a 13-year-old in 1985.
Rick was also paid by the FBI and given a fake ID the same year so he could travel with the Curry brothers, who were already in good terms with him, to Las Vegas to unearth secret information about their business. "He went as part of Curry's entourage there to attend the Hearns vs. Hagler boxing match at Caesar's Palace", said a White Bor documentary. Things took a turn for the worse when the young informant was apparently shot in the stomach by one of the Curry members when he was 15. While Rick had seen the attack coming since the Currys were already aware of his movements as an informant, the assassin swore that it was all just a mistake.
Rick was once again attacked in 1987 by hitman Nathaniel Craft who tried to murder him to prevent any information from being leaked in of the murder of the 13-year-old boy. Following the attack, Rick was arrested and sentenced to a lifetime imprisonment. The infamous 1978 Rockefeller law mandated life imprisonment without any parole, and Rick faced the full force of the law since he was caught with eight kgs in his possession.
After the law was amended in 1998, almost all convicts were relieved including Johnny Curry who was freed almost 18 years before Wershe. Nothing about his activities as an FBI informant was taken into consideration, yet Wershe kept operating with the FBI while in prison which led to the arrest of at least 16 people and conviction of a high ranking Detroit policeman.
Although homicide detective Gil Hill eventually disclosed the case of the 13-year-old, Damion Lucas, Wershe was still kept in prison. According to Wershe's own statement, "I think helping the FBI with Operation Backbone was the biggest mistake of my life because it created enemies I couldn't even imagine" which included corrupt police and public officials.
However, his story isn't all bad news, as Hollywood steps in to make dreams come true. Following the initial days of shooting Matthew McConaughey's 'White Boy Rick', set to release on September 14, Wershe, who was by then 47 years old, was granted his first parole hearing in more than 14 years in 2017.
With the increasing interest in the man who was the central character in both the 'White Boy' documentary and the upcoming 'White Boy Rick', it is probably time that Wershe is reunited with the world, which is now well aware of his story. As much as we hope that the movie strikes the right chords, we also hope that Wershe gets his life back - probably this time with a little less adventure.