Retired FBI Agent Flies in to Detroit For Premiere of Movie ‘White Boy,’ Hoping To Help Keep Injustice In Public Eye
By Allan Lengel
DETROIT — As an FBI agent in Detroit for 12 years, Herman Groman often played a central role in some of the most explosive cases in the city that resulted in crooked judges and cops going off to prison.
But Groman says there was more to being an agent.
“It’s not about just locking up bad guys,” says Groman, who retired in 2005 from the Las Vegas FBI office after 25 years in the bureau. “Part of the job description is bringing justice to the situation.”
Last week, Groman, who for years has been advocating the release of imprisoned drug trafficker Richard Wershe Jr., flew in from Las Vegas to Detroit for the premiere last Friday night of the documentary, “White Boy,” at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It’s part of the Freep Film Festival.
The film by Shawn Rech portrays Wershe, 47, (aka “White Boy Rick”) as being the victim of an injustice, suggesting higher ups in the city have worked for decades to prevent him from getting paroled. He’s been serving a life sentence for cocaine trafficking for 29 years, since he was a teenager, something even many law enforcement people have said is not right.
“Part of the reason I participated in this documentary, which was well researched, was because I wanted to be part of the effort to keep that story alive,” says Groman, who is one of the key characters in the documentary. “It was important to be here for the premiere to lend support to the underlying goal of getting the attention of the folks who need to revisit this injustice.”
Groman met Wershe as a teen through his dad who was FBI informant. Wershe also ended up being an informant for the FBI and Detroit Police, starting at age 14.
In the early 1990s, Groman helped head up a major FBI sting dubbed “Operation Backbone,” and convinced Wershe to cooperate from prison in Marquette in the Upper Peninsula where he was serving the life sentence at the time.
Groman convinced Wershe to work with the FBI and get cops to protect drug and money shipments into Detroit for drug dealers, who were really undercover FBI agents. It worked. He sucked in Mayor Coleman A. Young’s niece, Cathy Volsan, whom he dated, and her father Willie Volsan, who had a lot of connections in town. In the end Willie Volsan went off to prison along with a number of cops. Charges were dropped against Cathy.
It was good for justice. Not so good for Wershe, who says in the documentary that his cooperation with authorities in investigations may be a reason he’s still behind bars after 29 years. He said he believes Mayor Young wasn’t happy that he hurt his family and either was the late Gil Hill, the former homicide cop and city council member.
“In the final analysis, I think it did hurt Rick, but that was unpredictable,” Groman says of Wershe’s cooperation in the sting. “It’s my goal has been all along to right that wrong.”
After becoming an informant, Wershe became a drug dealer, peddling multi-kilos of cocaine and dating the mayor’s niece after her husband, drug dealer Johnny Curry, went off to prison.
“I became addicted to the lifestyle,” Wershe says in the documentary. “I became addicted to the money. I became addicted to the woman. I became addicted to that life.”
Some folks who have opposed his parole up until recently include Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who portrayed Wershe as a dangerous drug kingpin, who should never get paroled. She just recently said she won’t oppose a parole. He’s expected to get a parole hearing later this year.
“There’s someone in there keeping me in prison and it’s not the crime that I committed,” Wershe says in the movie.
As an aside, former homicide inspector Hill is portrayed as a crooked cop.
Hitman Nathaniel Craft, who is out of prison, accuses Hill in the movie of asking him to kill Wershe. He says he tries at one point, but fails.
Groman says Hill was no angel, but he’s skeptical of Craft’s accusation about Hill.
As for Wershe as a teenager:
“He was a bad kid. He needed to go to jail for a few years. But not for the rest of his life. That’s just Draconian.”