A Kansas man wins parole 25 years after being allegedly set up by indicted KCKPD detective
Brian Betts’ case was much like that of Lamonte McIntyre, another KCK man who says he was framed by former KCK Police Detective Roger Golubski. But McIntyre was exonerated in 2017, while Betts served out most of his 25-year sentence.
A Kansas City, Kansas, man who says he’s been wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years learned Friday that he will be released on parole in four months.
Although Brian Betts and his attorneys weren't able to get a new trial to clear his name, his family was ecstatic about the news of his release. Violet Martin, Betts’ sister, said he called at midday to give her and their mother, Ellen Betts, the news. They screamed and thanked God, she said.
“I know my brother. He was smiling,” Martin said. “He was like, ‘June 1! June 1 I’m coming home!’”
Martin said corrections officials told Betts that so many people wrote to the parole board on his behalf that they worried they would break the internet. He was originally sentenced to 25 years to life.
“They had so many supporters for Brian they thought the DOC website was going to go down,” she said.
Betts, 46, along with his cousin Celester McKinney, 52, were convicted of a 1997 murder with parallels to Lamonte McIntyre’s case. McIntyre, who was exonerated in 2017 of a double homicide he didn’t commit, was allegedly set up by former Kansas City, Kansas Police Detective Roger Golubski on the false testimony of two eyewitnesses who said they were coerced by the detective.
Much like the McIntyre case, police never recovered the weapons or any physical evidence and failed to document much of their work in the Betts-McKinney case. Also similar to the McIntyre case, there are suggestions that Golubski was protecting a local drug dealer.
But unlike the McIntyre case, Betts’ and McKinney’s attempts to gain their freedom through the legal system failed. Most recently, a judge in December denied the two a new trial, despite "this new cloud of doubt" surrounding Golubski.
Betts said he was at home asleep with his girlfriend and child at the time of the murder. The key witness was their uncle, Carter Betts, who said his nephews confessed the murder to him. He later recanted, saying he had been forced by two KCKPD detectives, including Golubski, to give false testimony.
Golubski, 70, now faces federal charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and sex trafficking.
McKinney had a parole hearing on February 16 and was told he'll learn if he’s paroled within a month of that day, Martin said.
McKinney’s attorney, Sarah Swain, said she hopes Betts winning parole means that McKinney could be next.
“Either way, this is great news for Brian Betts,” she said.
Betts spent a lot of his prison time educating himself, Swain said.
“He’s going to be such a powerful advocate for himself out from behind bars,” she said.
Lora McDonald, executive director of the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, or MORE2, said the group was jubilant to learn of Betts’ parole, even though he served nearly a full sentence while unsuccessfully fighting to clear his name.
MORE2 has called for a full investigation of the case by the U.S. Department of Justice. McDonald said it is still desperately needed.
“There is so very much work to do to make up for the decades of injustice perpetuated by Kansas City Kansas Police Department and the Wyandotte County Courts,” she said.