Two lawsuits filed by a Detroit-area man whose decades in prison for drug dealing and work as an informant inspired the movie “White Boy Rick” have been dismissed by a federal judge who found he waited too long to file them.
U.S. District Court Judge Judge F. Kay Behm on Monday dismissed the pair of lawsuits Richard Wershe Jr., 54, had filed, including one filed in 2021 that sought $100 million and claimed Wershe was coerced into assisting police while just a helpless teenager, The Detroit News reported.
Behm's ruling sided with multiple federal and local government defendants who argued for the dismissal of the cases based on the statute of limitations.
“The court has considered all of the arguments presented in the written motions, supplemental briefs, and oral argument, and finds that plaintiff’s claims were untimely and barred by the relevant statutes of limitations,” Behm said in the written ruling. “…Defendants’ motions to dismiss are granted.”
Wershe's life was the basis of the 2018 film “White Boy Rick,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Richie Merritt. The title referred to Wershe’s nickname in his younger days.
He filed his first lawsuit in July 2021 and a second one in October 2022. In the 2021 lawsuit, Wershe sought $100 million in damages from government defendants for constitutional violations. The later lawsuit involved multiple claims against the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
In the suits, Wershe accused officers from the FBI and Detroit Police Department of indoctrinating him into a “criminal society” as a child. The accusations against law enforcement officials stem from his time as an informant, which reportedly began when Wershe was 15 after being recruited by federal agents.
The suits alleged Wershe sustained a number of injuries as an informant in the 1980s when Detroit police and federal agents repeatedly sent him into drug dens and claimed they abandoned him when he got in legal trouble.
According to Judge Behm’s ruling, those claims would have reached the statute of limitations in 2006.
Wershe was arrested as a teen in 1987 on drug possession charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Subsequent changes to Michigan law made him eligible for parole and he was released on parole in 2017 after serving roughly 30 years in prison in Michigan. Wershe was then transferred to a Florida person where he served a few more years for an unrelated crime.
His lawyer, Nabih Ayad, vowed to appeal the judge's decision to U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are disappointed that the judge didn’t find Mr. Wershe to have extraordinary circumstances and therefore not tolling the statute of limitations,” Ayad said Monday in an email to the Detroit Free Press.
Defendants named in the lawsuits include the city of Detroit, a former Detroit police officer, two former FBI agents and a former assistant attorney in the Justice Department.
The FBI declined comment, as did the city of Detroit.