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5 things to know about ‘White Boy Rick’ Wershe, who is now a free man after his release earlier this week

Wershe spent 32 years behind bars -- in fact, he was the longest-serving nonviolent juvenile offender in Michigan history

WDIV.
WDIV.

In case you missed it, Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. was released earlier this week from a Florida halfway house. They were his first steps of true freedom since he was a teenager.

After spending more than 30 years behind bars and paroled, as of Monday, Wershe was free.

Read more: How exactly ‘White Boy Rick’ became an informant, drug dealer in Detroit

Wershe was the longest-serving nonviolent juvenile offender in Michigan history. Arrested at 17 years old for drug offenses, he was locked up until age 48. Wershe is now 51. (He was paroled in 2017 -- more on the timeline below).

What has changed since 'White Boy Rick' Wershe went to prision
What has changed since 'White Boy Rick' Wershe went to prision

At age 14, he became the youngest FBI informant ever -- and helped bring down some of Detroit’s biggest drug dealers. But then he became a drug dealer himself, crossed powerful city leaders, and ended up in prison for three decades.

Here are five more things to know:

Most recently, Wershe had been staying in a Florida halfway house.

Wershe had been involved in a residential work-release program in the city of Kissimmee, which is near Orlando. Wershe was originally scheduled to be released in April 2021, but the release date continued to get bumped sooner, due to good behavior. He was granted six days for every one month of that good behavior.

It was in 1987 when Wershe was arrested for possessing cocaine in excess of 8 kilograms.

He was sentenced to life in prison in Michigan under the state’s “650-Lifer Law,” a drug statute that penalized those found in possession of more than 650 grams of cocaine or heroin -- with a stiff penalty of life imprisonment without parole.

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But Wershe earned his parole in 2017 after nearly 30 years.

In April 2017, he was released from the Oaks Correctional Facility in Michigan and turned over to U.S. Marshals.

But not so fast ...

Wershe was then transferred to a Florida prison because of a crime he committed while behind bars. Wershe pleaded guilty to being involved in a car theft ring.

His future

Wershe plans to return to Metro Detroit. He still has probation to serve in Michigan.

“He’s anxious to get home,” Wershe’s attorney, Ralph Musilli, said in an Associated Press report. “His head is in a good place. He has a good support group here, and he is finally ready get back into the real world.”

The nickname

Wershe’s story was the basis of the 2018 film “White Boy Rick,” starring Matthew McConaughey and with Richie Merritt in the title role.

McConaughey stars as Richard’s father, Richard Wershe Sr.

Left to right, actors Bel Powley, Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Jonathan Majors and director Yann Demange -- as they attend the New York special screening of "White Boy Rick," hosted by Columbia Pictures and Studio 8 at the Paris Theater on September 12, 2018.
Left to right, actors Bel Powley, Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Jonathan Majors and director Yann Demange -- as they attend the New York special screening of "White Boy Rick," hosted by Columbia Pictures and Studio 8 at the Paris Theater on September 12, 2018. (2018 Getty Images)

The title referred to Wershe’s nickname in his younger days, a moniker he dislikes.

Read more: Historian says ‘White Boy Rick’ Wershe prison release ‘way overdue’

We also have a podcast, “Shattered,” that delves into the life of Wershe and others, which is most certainly worth a visit -- or a revisit! -- depending on how familiar you are with the circumstances. “White Boy Rick,” which is season two of “Shattered,” chronicles Wershe’s improbable life story.

You can access it wherever you listen to or download your other podcasts. Here are a few episodes, if you’d like a sampling: (You’ll be hooked!)

Read more about what to expect from the pod, or listen to more full episodes, here.


Complete coverage: Rick Wershe Jr.

With some information from the AP.