Richard Wershe, Jr. set to be paroled soon after giving info on Hill, others to feds; film to feature Hill’s alleged attempt to have him killed
Hill was key player in 1976 frame-up of juvenile lifer Charles Lewis, whose court files mysteriously ‘disappeared;’ Worthy wants life again for Lewis
On Nov. 11, judge denied Lewis’ motion to dismiss case, ordered files ‘re-constituted’ by prosecutor, state-appointed defense, then JLWOP hearing
Hill supervised team that obtained false confession in famous Eddie Joe Lloyd case; he also interviewed teens who claimed Lewis killed policeman despite interviews to the contrary in Freep article published a day later
SADO attorney Newman has refused to credit Lewis’ innocence despite mounting evidence; agreed to new file to be used in Miller hearing which is missing key documents
By Diane Bukowski
December 23, 2016 Updated December 24, 2016
DETROIT – News is hitting the airwaves and print media everywhere that Richard Wershe, Jr., a Detroit drug dealer and police snitch since the age of 14 known popularly as “White Boy Rick,” will likely be paroled soon after serving 29 years in state prisons.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy earlier dropped her opposition to Wershe’s release.
Wershe and juvenile lifer Charles Lewis, currently fighting Worthy’s effort to keep him locked up for life after serving 41 years for a crime he says he did not commit, based on a court file that “disappeared,” have a major player in common in their life stories.
That is the late Gilbert Hill, formerly head of Detroit’s police homicide unit and president of the Detroit City Council. Wershe says he gave information about Hill’s alleged cover-ups in homicide cases and connections with convicted drug dealers to the feds, hoping for an early release.
Kevin Dietz of Channel Four News reported Sept. 6 (above) that an upcoming documentary on Wershe’s life, “650 Lifer: The Legend of White Boy Rick,” will include an interview with admitted hitman Nate Boone Craft, killer of 30 people, who claims Hill tried to recruit him to kill Wershe in prison.
According to Dietz, Craft says in the film, “This came from Gill Hill’s mouth to me, ‘We got to make sure it don’t get back to no one,’ and I said, ‘You know me, none of my hits lead to no one. . . .I was told to kill White Boy Rick. He said, ‘125,000, I’ll make sure you get it as long as that boy is dead.’ His key word, ‘Dead.’”
In Lewis’ case, then Sgt. Gilbert Hill covered up the involvement of the owner and occupants of a white Lincoln Mark IV in the July 31, 1976 killing of Detroit police officer Gerald Sypitkowski, Their involvement was attested to by eyewitnesses including Sypitkowski’s partner Dennis Van Fleteren in a Detroit Free Press story published ONE DAY after the event.
Hill went on to target Lewis instead, who has so far served 41 years of a juvenile life without parole sentence for the Sypitkowski killing.
VOD recently unearthed the Freep’s Aug. 1, 1976 article on the Sypitkowski killing from the website newspapers.com. Photostats of the article, “Off-Duty Policeman is Slain Leaving Bar,” are included in this story. The article includes NO interviews with ANYONE who saw Lewis, or three juveniles who testified that they were with him when he allegedly shot Sypitkowski, or the yellow Ford Gran Torino they claimed to be driving at the scene.
“Police released few details of the 2 a.m. shooting or the investigation other than to say that initial reports that the officer had been shot from a passing car were false,” the article says.
However, it gives numerous witness statements contradicting what turned out to be Sgt. Gil Hill’s claim. It says basically what Van Fleteren said in Lewis’ trial transcripts, that he, another officer and a bartender had been with Sypitkowski at Oty’s Bar on Harper near Barrett before Sypitkowski decided to walk back to his car at T.C. Kennels, a dog training center where he had worked during a “two-week vacation.”
“Then came a flash from the muzzle of a gun and the sound of a shot, according to the witnesses,” the article continues. “A white late model Mark IV Lincoln was seen driving slowly westward with its lights out, past the place where Sypitkowski lay shot in the head. .. The three men took down the license number of the car and another off-duty policeman radioed the description to police via a citizens’ band radio. Police reportedly gave chase along Outer Drive and arrested suspects in the car, but they were released after questioning.”
The article says, “According to Sgt. Gilbert Hill, there was ‘no way’ the fatal shot could have come from a car on the road, so the men were not charged.” (Bolded text is from original Freep article.)
Later Freep coverage indicated that police arrested the owner of the car, Leslie Nathanial, after raids at two homes associated with him. Nathanial claimed police brutality, including gunfire, and that his car was impounded and destroyed by police, which of course would have destroyed pertinent evidence. Nathanial was released.
Lewis told VOD that Hill’s name and signature is “all over” documents that resulted in charges being brought against him. He said that Hill conducted the initial interviews of the three juveniles who were the ONLY ones to testify that LEWIS killed Sypitkowski at his trials, despite the testimony of Van Fleteren and other eyewitnesses to the contrary, told to the Freep the day after the killing.
Lewis says Hill coerced the teens into testifying against him with threats of prosecution against them.
Maher dismissed the jury in the first trial without known cause. Lewis was convicted in the second trial. He says he has always believed the first jury voted to acquit him.
Hill later supervised investigators who obtained a notorious false confession from Eddie Joe Lloyd to the rape and murder of 16-year-old Michelle Jackson in 1984, according to documents in a federal civil case filed by noted attorney David Robinson.
Lloyd, who has since passed, was fully exonerated by the efforts of the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic, which included DNA evidence. The lawsuit, which included Hill as a defendant, resulted in a $3.25 million out of court settlement for Lloyd’s family. (See lawsuit at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Eddie-Joe-Lloyd-case-Hill-involved-para-75.pdf
VOD filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for all Detroit Police Department documents including witness statements and other evidence on the Lewis case, but was told they did not exist.
However, at a hearing in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard Oct. 28, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Jason Williams said on the record that HE has the DPD files, a trial transcript and Lewis’ prison record to aid in “re-constructing” Lewis’ file as Lillard ordered Nov. 11.
Lillard gave a deadline of Jan. 6-13 to re-construct the file, but Lewis told VOD today that his state-appointed attorney Valerie Newman of the State Appellate Defenders Office (SADO) told him the file is already complete, and that she is satisfied with it and will proceed onward to a Miller hearing to be scheduled sometime in the future based on that file. He said she has not provided him with a copy of the file, which is now a public record as a court file, or provided him with any input into its reconstruction.
He said he asked her if the police-videotaped interviews with the juveniles are in the file, and she said no, they are not needed.
He said he asked Newman asked if a subsequent “Pearson” evidentiary hearing transcript, in which five officers testified that Van Fleteren was competent at the scene when he identified the real killer(s), is in the file.
Newman said no, they could not find it, although the transcript is attached to Lewis’ federal court filings as indicated in an earllier VOD story which included a copy of the transcript. (See transcripts at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Lewis-transcript-Pearson-hearing.pdf and http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Lewis-transcript-2-Pearson-hearing.pdf.)
He said Newman said essentially that she still believes Lewis is guilty as charged and plans to proceed with a Miller hearing on his case, evidently at sometime in the future as none is on the court docket yet. Lewis has been trying to get various experts hired for such a hearing, including a crime scene reconstructionist, and a mitigation hearing specialist , but he said Newman has not hired any experts to his knowledge.
Newman and representatives of SADO have repeatedly refused ANY interviews with VOD on their role in Lewis’ case, even a “No comment.”
Hill also testified at Lewis’ two trials. Lewis’ mother Rosie Lewis said Hill came to the family’s home asking about her son’s whereabouts under the pretense that the house next door had been broken into. She said Lewis was not home at that point. Lewis, a talented musician, has always said he was playing with a band called “Pure Pleasure” at a UAW Local 212 hall then located in Detroit when Sypitkowski was killed.
Hill’s remarks that the fatal shot “could not have come” from the white Mark IV Lincoln were based on alleged medical examiner testimony that Van Fleteren was shot from only two feet away.
However, a Wayne County Medical Examiner testified on cross examination at Lewis’ trial that gunshot powder in Sypitkowski’s head could have come from a shotgun fired from up to seven feet away, consistent with the drive-by story.
Lewis, who became an accomplished jail-house attorney and writer, has fought his conviction in both state and federal courts for all the time he has been jailed.
Most recently, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard on Nov. 11 denied Lewis” motion to dismiss his case due to the complete loss of his court file. Lewis’ motion cited criminal case precedents dating from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1957, and later from Michigan courts. (Motion below story.)
Lewis is one of over 360 “juvenile lifers” in Michigan, 147 from Wayne County, sentenced to die in prison for crimes committed as children.
Ninety-eight percent of the Wayne County juvenile lifers are Black. But Worthy has asked that the highest number in the state, 63, be re-sentenced to life without parole, after the U.S. Supreme Court twice found such sentences unconstitutional. In both decisions, the USSC said only “the rarest child” should be sentenced to life without parole.
Lewis’ motion additionally addresses factors beyond the USSC Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) decisions.
Judge Lillard contended in her order that the loss of Lewis’ file was essentially not relevant to holding a so-called “Miller” mitigation hearing in his case. (See order at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Lewis-order-11-11-16.pdf)
However a current 2014 state statute governing juvenile lifer re-sentencing says,
“MCL 769.25 (7) At the hearing under subsection (6), the court shall specify on the record the aggravating and mitigating circumstances considered by the court and the court’s reasons supporting the sentence imposed. The court may consider evidence presented at trial together with any evidence presented at the sentencing hearing.”
Judge Lillard evidently dug deep to find a 1911 civil divorce case to support her position.
“As a court of record, the court has the inherent authority to restore the lost records from Defendant’s file, Newton v. Newton, 166 Mich, 421, 416 (1911) and the Court will now exercise that authority,” Lillard said in her “Order and Opinion Denying Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Sentence to a Term of Years.”
“The People and the State Appellate Defenders Office are hereby ordered to meet with representatives of the Wayne County Clerk’s Office to arrange for restoration of the files from copies of the various documents in their possession.” She said the file must be finalized by Jan. 6, 2017, and that the parties would be given until Jan. 13, 2017 to challenge the validity of the file.
She did not include Lewis as one of the parties to be involved in the re-construction, although her order addresses his motion separately from one filed by Newman for a term of years. Lillard also denied that motion, likely indicating advance bias in favor of life without parole prior to even holding a Miller hearing.
The key USSC case Lewis cited in his motion, Chessman v. Teets, was decided in Chessman’s favor precisely because he was not present during the reconstitution of trial transcripts in his case. Although Newman says she represents Lewis and speaks for him, his positions differ drastically from hers.
Lewis says regarding the Newton v. Newton case that it was based on a dissenting opinion without legal weight. (See opinion at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Newton-v-Newton.pdf).
“Judge Ostrander filed a dissenting opinion and relied upon three compiled Laws 10276-10280,” Lewis told VOD. “Mind you the statute relied upon by Judge Ostrander was repealed over a hundred years ago. And the decision has no legal weight because it was a dissenting opinion, but it says ‘An act to provide for the restoration of lost records, papers or other proceedings in court records.’”
In his motion to re-sentence Lewis to life without parole, APA Jason Williams contends,“Defendant’s crime in the current case was not the result of unfortunate yet transient immaturity, but, rather, evinced irreparable corruption that requires a Life without parole sentence. Defendant is deserving of a sentence of Life without the possibility of parole.”
He cites no specific evidence regarding that contention. Lewis has been incarcerated since the age of 17 and has demonstrated his numerous talents as a musician, writer and legal analyst in prison since that time. He has helped politically educate fellow prisoners as well.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that juvenile life without parole sentences are unconstitutional in the U.S., the last country in the world to use them, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward Ewell granted Lewis a re-sentencing on October 17, 2012, before the state statutes referring such cases to the parole board were included in Michigan laws in 2014.
“. . .this Court will interpret Defendant’s motion as a successive Motion for Relief from Judgment pursuant to MCR 6.502(G)(2) because there has been a retroactive change in the law–specifically, the United States Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama, supra, regarding mandatory sentencing for juveniles,” Ewell ruled. “Thus, for all the reasons stated, Defendant’s Motion to Remand to the Third Circuit Court for entry of sentence that complies with Miller v. Alabama is hereby GRANTED.” (See order below story.)
Ewell’s ruling was overturned on appeal, based on claims that Miller was not retroactive. Lewis contends that those COA and state Supreme Court decisions were invalidated by the subsequent USSC ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana on Jan. 25, 2016 that Miller is indeed retroactive. He says he should not be re-sentenced under the state statutes passed AFTER Ewell’s order, but have his case remanded to the trial judge for open adjudication.