Now that former detective Roger Golubski has been arrested by the FBI and charged in federal court with six counts stemming from his alleged abuse and kidnapping of two Black women over several years, the absolutely essential next step for law enforcement officials in Kansas City, Kansas, is to launch a full-scale, no-exceptions review of every case that led to a conviction based on Golubski’s police work or testimony.
It will be a massive undertaking, but one that is critically important if residents of Wyandotte County are ever to have faith in the prosecutors, police and judges who have meted out justice there over the past several decades. Golubski stands accused not just in the two cases in which the Department of Justice has brought its charges, but in a long list of other cases in which Black women have alleged for years he used his badge to prey on them, and to punish others.
At least one proven case of a false conviction in a case he investigated has already been established, and credible complaints of others have been made for years. The response from local law enforcement officials has been woefully inadequate at every step.
There has yet to be a formal investigation by the KCK police department determining to what degree Golubski was allowed to act with impunity until his retirement in 2010, or why leaders in subsequent years failed to evaluate and share with the public organizational weaknesses that may have aided his wrongdoing.
Given that record, we were strongly encouraged Wednesday by an emphatic statement by Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, who told the editorial board that he will fully investigate every case brought to his attention with the name Golubski tied to it.
“Every case that is submitted to our office with Golubski’s name on it is going to be reviewed,” Dupree said. ”We are going to look at it. Why? Because we need to make sure that every conviction that he was on and others hold integrity both today and tomorrow.”
That’s exactly right. Obviously, not every conviction associated with Golubski will be shown to have been mistaken. But every single case he touched must be examined for the stain of corruption. Nothing less than the integrity of the office Dupree holds, and the reputation of the courts and police he works with, hangs in the balance.
Wyandotte County corruption long alleged
The allegations that Golubski’s conduct was just part of a much deeper rot within the Wyandotte County criminal justice system are hardly new. Lamonte McIntyre was released after 23 years in prison in 2017 after a string of evidence surfaced pointing to corruption by Golubski and others, including a prosecutor who withheld evidence, and incompetence in a case involving two homicides he had nothing to do with.
Dupree was prosecutor at the time and moved for McIntyre’s release. The case left him worrying it might have only been a portion of what was wrong within the system.
“That if there was one Lamonte McIntyre, that there may in fact be more Lamonte McIntyres,” he told us. “It goes without saying that if there was more than one Lamonte McIntyre then, sadly, it begs the question, is there more than one Golubski?”
Those are the right questions to ask — but they won’t be answered without a thorough, aggressive approach by Dupree, the police department and others.
For his part, Dupree’s commitment does not go nearly far enough. He notes that his office’s Conviction Integrity Unit — the only one in Kansas, which he created after the McIntrye case — has but one staff attorney, two investigators, and told us it will take time to work through cases brought to his attention.
Of course it will. And it’s likely that three staff members won’t be nearly enough to confront the enormity of the task Golubski’s long trail of alleged abuse has left. If his office needs more resources, Dupree should present a plan to the county and insist on emergency funding — or rearrange his own priorities to fund the additional work in-house.
It’s also not enough to wait for defense attorneys or others — and this has already begun — to bring to his attention cases they believe are tainted.
Dupree’s work, by the way, will only be the start of what’s needed. The KCK police department is long overdue for a close audit, one that looks at the relationships and customs that allowed Golubski to operate with impunity for so long.
We commend Dupree’s promised effort, and intend to hold him to it. He’ll need to do more than simply wait for complaints to land on his desk and depend on a few staffers to work through the mounting pile of cases. At stake are people’s liberty — and the integrity of the criminal justice system itself.
‘That was the opposite of justice’
Wyandotte County residents have been calling out for justice for years. Golubski’s arrest has only amplified those cries. But what they need most is to be able to trust the police, the judges and the prosecutors on whom so much depends.
That trust has been severed over many years. The only way to begin to rebuild it is to open wide the doors of the criminal justice system and apply the disinfectant that only transparency can bring. It also means proactively examining every single case that might involve an innocent person serving time in prison because a rogue cop such as Golubski didn’t play fair.
Beyond the urgent question of whether innocent people are behind bars, others remain in need of forthright answers.
Why, for instance, is Dupree acting only now? He told us the McIntyre investigation had opened eyes to possible corruption years ago. “It was that case that ultimately availed us to the reality that holy crap, something happened under the umbrella of justice out of this office and in this community that was the opposite of justice.”
These cases that Golubski may have improperly influenced have been in need of review for years.
Sarah Swain, a defense lawyer whose client next month is seeking a retrial based on evidence that Golubski may have been involved in framing him and his co-defendant for murder more than 20 years ago, said Dupree is acting because he must.
“Mark Dupree has had five years to wrap his head around the fact that the KCK police department is a cesspool of corruption,” she said.
Whether she’s right or not about the department is still anyone’s guess, because so far no one has done the investigation needed to provide reliable answers.
Conviction Integrity Unit understaffed
Dupree said it’s not been for lack of trying.
“This is something this office has been trying to investigate for the last six years,” he said.
What held things up, he said, “was a conflict of interest in the police department.” Golubski’s partner, Terry Zeigler, was the chief of police at the time. “We didn’t have an investigative arm in this office and we couldn’t use (KCKPD),” Dupree said.
Since then, the Conviction Integrity Unit has investigated more than a dozen cases of possible police corruption or tainted convictions, he said. It found wrongful conviction in at least one, and Olin “Pete” Coones was released in 2020 after 12 years in prison. He died shortly after his release.
Dupree says the CIU is woefully understaffed, and it’s the lone investigative arm in the DA’s office to evaluate what Dupree thinks could be “a lot,” more complaints if Golubski is convicted.
“Give me a team of law enforcement certified investigators,” Dupree said.
He should make a formal proposal to the county commissions — and they should say yes. He should have asked a long time ago.
Golubski is accused of terrorizing Black communities in KCK for 35 years. Any case the DA’s office investigates will take “a lot of time,” and labor to comb through and won’t reap results “with a snap of a finger,” Dupree said.
Nobody expects these reviews to happen overnight. But the people of Wyandotte County have already waited decades for justice where Golubski is concerned, and they should not have had too.
What’s important now is that not only must every complaint connected to a Golubski case be reviewed, but that the culture that allowed it must be exposed and reformed. It’s what Wyandotte County deserves. The district attorney and all the county’s government officials owe the community that much.
This story was originally published September 22, 2022 5:00 AM.