The still hard-to-fathom saga of 1980s Detroit teen drug-world prodigy Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe has been going on for 30 years and will soon be brought to the big screen in the upcoming Matthew McConaughey eponymously-titled film. Newcomer Richie Merritt plays Wershe in his movie debut and McConaughey plays his dad. The magnetic and street smart Wershe went from graduating eighth grade to top-secret government mole to 16-year old narcotics-trafficking wunderkind to political prisoner all in a four-year period at the height of the country’s crack epidemic.

For the last three decades, the 48-year old Wershe has fought tirelessly for his freedom, even going back to work for authorities from his prison cell and aiding in the building of two historic cases. Incarcerated since he was 18, he is currently the longest-serving non-violent juvenile offender in the American justice system. Weshe is in the home stretch of his time behind bars and could be released before the end of the year.

McConaughey and Merritt’s White Boy Rick movie hits theatres nationwide September 21. Filmmaker Shawn Rech’s documentary White Boy is available on ITunes and a number of streaming platforms right now.


February 1990 – Wershe reconvenes his relationship with the FBI and agrees to help them make a case against a corrupt crew of Detroit cops running a protection ring for out-of-town drug dealers, escorting narcotics shipments to and from the airport in exchange for a $50,000 fee per trip. The sting, dubbed Operation Backbone, targeted but never ensnared Gil Hill.

May 22 1991 – The Operation Backbone indictment drops, charging police sergeant Jimmy Harris, a confidant of Mayor Coleman Young, and Young’s brother-in-law, Willie Volsan — Wershe’s girlfriend Cathy’s father –, as the ring leaders of an 11-man shakedown operation. Both are convicted and sentenced to hefty prison time. Harris would be granted clemency in his case by departing U.S. President George W. Bush in 2008.

June 1991 – Wershe is transferred into a federal witness-protection wing in Arizona and gives further assistance to investigators once again probing the accidental 1985 murder of westside Detroit youth Damion Lucas and Gil Hill’s alleged role in covering it up, dismantling the Best Friends Gang, the Motor City’s most notorious killing machine since the Prohibition beer wars, and tipping feds off in New York of a plot to murder then mafia don John Gotti, Jr. Wershe’s intelligence on the plan to hit Gotti, Jr. came from his living with a series of former mob figures in his Phoenix prison unit.

December 1991 – Wershe testifies in front of a federal grand jury investigating the murderous Best Friends Gang, a killer-for-hire crew on Detroit’s eastside that began bumping off drug dealers and taking over their respective organizations in the late 1980s. The Best Friends were suspected of playing a role in more than 80 gangland slayings in less than a decade of a reign. Best Friends boss “Rocking Reggie” Brown was convicted of killing Wershe’s closest friend and right-hand man “Freaky Steve” Roussell.

June 11, 1992 – Richard Wershe, Sr. is released from federal prison after serving four years on a conviction of selling gun silencers.

October 1992 – From his prison cell in Texas, Johnny Curry does an interview with The Detroit News and admits to meeting with Gil Hill twice in the week after the 1985 Damion Lucas homicide. Hill was the head of the DPD’s homicide division. Wershe told the FBI he was with Curry the day following the tragic Lucas killing, where a 13-year old boy got caught in the crossfire of a drug beef between his uncle and the Curry Brothers Gang, and heard him discuss with Hill a $10,000 payoff for the probe into the gang to go away.

December 8, 1992 – The whole Best Friends Gang goes down in a massive drug and murder case.

January 3, 1994 – Mayor Coleman Young retires after serving five terms in office. Young was the most powerful politician the city had ever seen. Doggedly pursued by federal authorities for suspected corruption, he was never charged with a crime.

November 4, 1997 – Gil Hill is elected as Detroit City Council President. He retired from the police department in 1989 and won a seat on the council that same year.

November 29, 1997 – Retired Mayor Coleman Young dies of emphysema at age 79.

July 2, 1998 – The “650 Lifer Law,” is thrown out by the Michigan State Legislature, allowing Wershe to now be eligible for parole on his mandatory life sentence.

March 4, 1999 – Former Eastside Detroit drug kingpin Johnny Curry, the leader of the infamous Curry Brothers Gang and Wershe’s underworld mentor, is paroled from prison after serving 12 years behind bars on his drug case.

November 2001 – Gil Hill loses his election bid for Mayor of Detroit to eventual convicted felon Kwame Kilpatrick. Hill was hounded by questions about the Damion Lucas murder investigation during the race and allegedly privately blamed Wershe for the issue and his election defeat.

March 27 & 28 2003 – Wershe gets his first parole hearing, a high-profile two-day affair held in downtown Detroit under a familiar flurry of media coverage, fierce opposition from the DPD and Wayne County establishment and featuring an appearance by musical artist and native Detroiter Kid Rock, who testified on Wershe’s behalf. The parole board denies Wershe his freedom back despite testimony from federal authorities vouching for his cooperation in the 1990s, cooperation deemed crucial in a number of top-priority investigations, busts and convictions.

March 24, 2005 – Wershe is indicted for playing a minor role in a multi-million dollar auto-theft conspiracy hatched from a Florida prison witness protection unit. He pleads guilty and is given an additional five-year sentence to run consecutive with his drug case instead of the standard concurrent term.

August 2006 – Wershe is kicked out of federal witness protection for his involvement in the auto-theft ring and returned to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

December 2008 – Wershe has his second parole request denied.

November 2012 – Wershe stages his first of many charity food drives from behind bars, a turkey donation bank for Thanksgiving at his old church on Detroit’s eastside.

August 2013 – Wershe has his third parole request denied.

September 4, 2015 – Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway orders Wershe resentenced. Hathaway had recently placed the retiring Judge Thomas Jackson as Wershe’s trial judge of record.

September 20, 2015 – The Michigan Court of Appeals blocks Judge Hathaway’s ruling to resentence Wershe, claiming his only remedy to find relief from his life prison term is through the state parole board.

February 29, 2016 – Gil Hill dies of pneumonia in a Detroit nursing home at 84 years old.

August 25, 2016 – Portions of an interview with former Best Friends Gang hit man Nate (Boone) Craft from an upcoming documentary on Wershe’s case are released to the press and show Craft claiming he was hired by Detroit Police officials to kill Wershe in the 1980s. Craft, an admitted participant in 30 gangland slayings and FBI cooperator who did 17 years in prison, alleged Gil Hill was aware of police hit lists and would sometimes review and edit such lists.

August 26, 2016 – Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announces her office will no longer oppose Wershe’s quest for parole. Worthy had appealed the resentencing ruling in Wershe’s case less than a year prior.

March 30, 2017 – The documentary White Boy premieres at the Detroit Free Press Film Festival, where it  wins top prize.

June 7, 2017 – Wershe has his first full parole hearing in 14 years in Jackson, Michigan in a more subdued event than his initial go-around face-to-face in front of the board in the spring of 2003.

July 14, 2017 – Wershe is granted parole in a unanimous decision.

July 18, 2017 – Wershe celebrates his 48th birthday.

August 22, 2017 – Wershe is sent to Florida to serve out his prison time in his car-theft case.

May 28, 2018 – The Florida prison system’s Clemency Board meet to discuss Wershe’s case.

May 29, 2018 – The documentary White Boy is released on streaming services.

September 14, 2018 – The Hollywood film White Boy Rick will be released to limited theatres and is slated to go “wide” the following weekend.

See Part 1 of the White Boy Rick Timeline here.

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