Richard Wershe Jr., otherwise known as "White Boy Rick", has been in prison for nearly 30 years. He's serving a life sentence because he was caught as a 16-year-old with eight kilos of cocaine in Detroit in the 1980s.
A new documentary exploring how the FBI got him involved in the drug game and the people who are working to keep him in prison, made its world premiere in Detroit as part of the Freep Film Festival Friday night.
The title of the film is "White Boy” and its director, Shawn Rech, joined Stateside to talk about how this project came to be.
How did a small-time teenage drug dealer end up with a life sentence?
"This is back during the crack era when people were demanding answers from politicians, and all they knew to do was to increase penalties hoping that would work," said Rech. "There was a law called the 650-lifer law in which anyone caught with over 650 grams could be charged with this law and they could be charged with life without parole."
When the Michigan Supreme Court ruled laws like that are unconstitutional, everyone was automatically re-sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. So this seems like it would give inmates like Wershe Jr. hope of getting out after serving a significant amount of time already.
"[Wershe Jr.] has only had one public parole hearing, which was a fiasco," said Rech. "It was pretty clear there that the powers that be in Detroit were never going to let him out."
Rech was able to piece the film together with help from law enforcement, convicted drug dealers who have no reason to help Wershe, investigative reporters, and others, who all agree that there’s something fishy about "White Boy Rick" not being given a chance to be free.
Listen to the full interview above to hear how Rech found the people who contributed to the film, who is working to keep Wershe Jr. behind bars, and what hope he has of getting released.