Ophelia Williams’s nightmare began on August 8, 1999. It was sometime before 7 a.m. and Williams and her children were asleep in their home in Kansas City, Kansas, when she was awoken by a loud banging on the front door. Williams put a housecoat over her nightgown and went to answer it. Outside was a gaggle of police officers with a search warrant. She let them in.
They were there, she learned, to arrest her twin sons, then 14, who were accused of murder in connection with a robbery gone wrong. As the officers fanned out for the search, a detective named Roger Golubski stood with Williams in her living room. Her 12-year-old daughter was by her side. He introduced himself and looked her up and down, she later testified in a deposition. She was uncomfortable and asked if she could change into some clothes. No, Golubski told her. She moved to the couch and sat down, crossing her legs, “and he said, you got pretty legs,” she recalled. She was worried about her sons, and here was Golubski, commenting on her appearance. “I didn’t like that at all,” she testified. “I thought it was inappropriate.”
“He was the police. What was I going to say?”
Williams cried as the cops left, taking her sons to jail. “I was devastated,” she said.
A few days later, Golubski was back, knocking on her door. Though her sons would eventually be sent to prison, Golubski said he could help with their case, Williams remembered. “He said he knew the DA.” As they sat on the couch, he moved in close and put his hand on her leg; she swatted him away and stood up. Golubski then shoved her back down, she said, held her hands above her head and raped her. Before leaving, he told her, “I will see you later,” Williams recalled.
“I can’t believe he did that,” she testified. “He is supposed to be a police officer.”
Over the following months, Golubski returned again and again, including while on duty, to assault Williams. She was afraid to resist or report him. He said he could have somebody “do something to me and that they would never find me,” she recalled. “He was the police. What was I going to say; this policeman just raped me?”
More than two decades later, on September 15, Williams cried again after learning that Golubski had been arrested by the FBI at his home just west of Kansas City. He was charged with six counts of federal civil rights violations over the course of four years, including the aggravated sexual abuse and kidnapping of Williams and another woman, identified in court records as S.K., while “under color of law.” The charges, if proven, could net Golubski, now 69, up to life in prison. During arraignment in federal court in Topeka, Golubski pleaded not guilty.
The charges come after years of legal battles and mounting pressure from advocates, activists, and journalists — including from the Kansas City Star, where reporter Luke Nozicka has been leading the charge along with former columnist Melinda Henneberger, who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Golubski’s alleged crimes. Accusations of egregious wrongdoing had followed Golubski throughout his 35-year career with the police department. But it was only after the 2017 exoneration of Lamonte McIntyre, who spent 23 years in prison for a double homicide he did not commit, that Golubski’s actions came under real public scrutiny.
In the Wake of Exoneration
In 1994, Doniel Quinn and Donald Ewing were shot multiple times at close range as they sat in a parked Cadillac on a residential street in Kansas City, a contract slaying connected to the theft of drugs from a stash house. There were plenty of leads that could have helped detectives solve the crime, including an eyewitness who said she knew the killer. The police never interviewed her.
Instead, they focused on 17-year-old McIntyre, who was with relatives that afternoon more than a mile from the crime scene. No evidence ever linked him to the crime, but McIntyre was tried and convicted based on two witness identifications that had been coerced by police. Instead of vetting the sloppy investigation, the prosecutor on the case threatened a witness who tried to recant, failed to tell the defense about the recantation, and then ushered the perjured testimony into evidence.