DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit-area drug dealer known as "White Boy Rick," who has been in prison for nearly 30 years for crimes as a teen, won't get a new sentence, the Michigan appeals court said Tuesday in reversing a decision that likely would have led to his freedom.
The court said Richard Wershe Jr.'s sentence can't be set aside because it was a legal punishment.
Wershe, 46, has been in prison since he was 18. He was convicted of possessing more than 650 grams of cocaine and sentenced to life without parole. Subsequent changes in Michigan law made him eligible for parole, but the parole board still has refused to release him.
On Sept. 4, Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway said Wershe was entitled to a new sentence, noting his age at the time of his crimes and other circumstances. That decision was suspended while prosecutors appealed.
"The trial court cannot set aside a valid sentence without a legal basis to do so, and as the trial court recognized, (Wershe's) sentence is not unconstitutional," said appeals court judges Christopher Murray, Michael Talbot and Kirsten Frank Kelly.
Wershe said he's disappointed but won't give up.
"After all this time in here you don't believe you are going to get out of here until the day you walk out of here," he told WDIV-TV by phone from prison. "I'll keep fighting until my dying breath."
Wershe helped the FBI investigate drugs and police corruption as early as age 14 and even after he was locked up, according to a 2010 letter from lawyers and law enforcers who had urged then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm to release him. She declined.
Wershe's attorney, Ralph Musilli, said he will ask the Michigan Supreme Court to take the case.
"He's spent 28 years in (prison) while they've been paroling robbers, rapists and murderers," Musilli said of the parole board.
Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap