Rick Wershe Jr., formerly known as “White Boy Rick,” rose to fame in the 1980s as a drug dealer in Detroit, Michigan, who was able to befriend high-ranking members of drug clans when he was only a teenager. But White Boy, a 2017 documentary that shot to the Netflix Top 10 this week, tells a very different story about Wershe Jr.’s life on the streets of Detroit — and the conviction that made him the longest-serving Michigan inmate who was convicted as a juvenile of a non-violent crime.
But before we go any further, you’re probably wondering — since the making of White Boy, did Wershe Jr. ever get out of prison?
The answer is yes. As The Detroit News reported, he was released last year after serving more than 30 years of his life sentence. His release came two years after the feature film White Boy Rick, which starred Richie Merritt as Rick Wershe Jr. and Matthew McConnaughey as his father, Rick Wershe Sr. It was directed by Yann Demange.
In 2017, Wershe told the Detroit News that his hopes for post-prison life were to write screenplays and enjoy the family that he’s missed out on for the past three decades — at the age of 51, he is a father of three and a grandfather of six.
“The older you get, you have a different outlook on life and different things are important to you,” Wershe told the Detroit News. “Now what’s important to me is going out and doing something to be proud of and make the people that stood up for me make them proud and not let them down.”
Wershe Jr. also echoed what White Boy underscored to a fine point — he was never a “drug kingpin,” despite what media reports said at the time of his arrest and trial. He said it’s true that he dealt drugs, but on a much smaller scale.
“I’ve lost a lot of my life to things that aren’t true,” Wershe said in the 2017 interview. “I was never the drug dealer … who was this huge kingpin. That couldn’t be more wrong. I sold drugs for 11 months.”
The documentary also diverges shockingly from the urban legend of “White Boy Rick” — a nickname Wershe Jr. would like to move on from. His forays into the drug trade actually came as a result of working as an informant for the FBI, as his father had done, since he was 14 years old, according to the doc. His ability to befriend members of the Curry gang and the Best Friends gang astounded law enforcement, who routinely used him to gather information for drug raids.
The elder Wershe said that one day, the FBI stopped calling. But Wershe Jr., who as a teenager was already accustomed to the life of big money, nice cars and notoriety that comes with selling high-end drugs, continued on, with no guidance to the contrary.
“At some point, these guys said, sooner or later something’s going to go bad and we’re going to be held accountable,” Wershe Jr. said in the doc. “It wasn’t like they ever said, ‘Rick, stop selling drugs, Rick, stop buying drugs.’ One day they just never called again, and that’s how we broke ties.’”
Ralph Musilli, Wershe Jr.’s attorney, added, “They don’t debrief him, they don’t send him to a boarding school where he can get over what they’ve just subjected him to. They turn him loose on the streets.”
In 1987, Wershe Jr. was arrested for possession of 9,000 grams of cocaine and $30,000 in cash, according to the Detroit News. Meanwhile, information he’d helped law enforcement obtain led to the indictment of the Curry gang, for which Johnny Curry got a 20-year sentence. He served 12 of those years and was released on parole, while Wershe Jr. was denied parole in 2003, according to the doc. He was finally granted parole in 2017, but still had time to serve in Florida for charges relating to an auto-theft ring conducted while he was in prison, the doc adds. He was finally released in July 2020, according to the Detroit News.
One of the reasons Wershe Jr. spent so long behind bars is because he was convicted under Michigan’s 650-Lifer Law passed in 1978 during a nationwide crackdown on drug offenses, the doc explains. The law meant that anyone charged with manufacturing, delivering, or possessing cocaine or Schedule 1 or 2 narcotics in quantities of at least 650 grams would receive a mandatory life sentence without parole.
White Boy is now streaming on Netflix. Main Image: Rick Wershe Jr. pictured in prison in White Boy on Netflix.