JACKSON, Mich. (WJBK) - Richard Wershe Jr. - better known since the 1980s as "White Boy Rick" told the parole board Thursday he's sorry for dealing drugs as a teenager.
"I know the drugs that I sold destroyed people's lives," he said. "I can't take it back. It's destroyed my life. I'll never sell drugs again."
Wershe defended his life choices in a bid for freedom after 30 years in prison. He says he got his start in the drug trade as a 14-year-old informant for the FBI.
Two former agents traveled hundreds of miles to support his bid.
"You've got to take his youth into consideration," said Herman Groman, a retired FBI agent. "Which I think the parole board will."
"I don't know of anybody that I've dealt with over the years - and I've been associated with the FBI for 46 years - I've never seen anyone cooperate like Richard Wershe," said Gregg Schwarz. "I mean he literally had the safety of undercover agents in the palm of his hand. And he always did the right thing."
The former east side hustler recounted his transformation from stool pigeon to dope man. A tale of a teenager with an 8th grade education who shacked up with Mayor Coleman Young's niece, rode in private jets and splurged on cars and jewelry - including a solid gold belt.
His career ended with a sentence of life in prison for selling more than 650 grams of cocaine. And about 15 years ago he got busted while in prison in Florida for helping sell stolen cars.
Wershe says he was just trying to help his family pay the bills. Parole officials described a decent conduct record - which didn't surprise his mom.
"He deserves to be out," said mother Darlene McCormick. "I've been to visit him many times and had compliments from guards on how good he is. And he needs to get out."
Michigan repealed its lifer law for drug dealers more than a decade ago and the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled life sentences for juvenile offenders unconstitutional - but Wershe is still behind bars.
As he approaches his 50th birthday, he says he wants to spend time with family, including his three children and six grandchildren. He says he's a changed man.
"All I can give you is my word that I'll never commit another crime," he said. "If you don't want to believe me, I understand. I'm a criminal. But all I can give you is my word as a man."
Schwarz believes him.
FOX 2: "Do the people of Detroit have anything to fear is Rick Wershe is released?"
"Absolutely not," Schwarz said. "I don't think so anyway. I would bet my life on it that he would be an asset to the community."
After snitching on dope men, Wershe helped nail crooked cops. He believes his work with law enforcement is one reason he's still locked up.
Veteran investigative reporter Vince Wade agrees.
"I essentially think Richard Wershe is a political prisoner," he said. "Because he told on the wrong people. That's the overall theme I have in my pursuit of the case. It is a matter of justice - or injustice."
In his final remarks, Wershe made a promise the parole board probably hears a lot.
"I know I messed up," he said. "I can't go back. I can only go forward. You'll never see me again."
- 6/5/2017 - 'White Boy' Rick Wershe parole hearing set for June 8
- 4/14/2017 - 'White Boy' Rick Wershe granted public parole hearing
- 2/14/2017 - Parole board could vote for 'White Boy Rick' hearing after meeting with chairman
- 9/29/2017 - Appeals Court rules Rick Wershe won't be resentenced
- 9/20/2017 - Should "White Boy Rick" be released from jail?
- 9/4/2015 - 'White Boy' Rick Wershe to be resentenced Sept. 18
Count Wershe's sister Dawn among the believers.
"I think he's very remorseful," Dawn said. "For the crimes he's committed especially while incarcerated and I can tell you, he won't be back."
The board won't make a decision until next month at the earliest. If Wershe is paroled, his next stop could be Florida, where a prison sentence awaits for his role in that hot car caper.