Terra Morehead, Kansas Prosecutor Who ‘ruined People’s Lives’ Finally to Leave Office
When the name “Golubski” is mentioned, “Morehead” usually is, too. When the name “Golubski” is mentioned, “Morehead” usually is, too. File photo Terra Morehead, the ethically challenged federal prosecutor best known for sending Lamonte McIntyre to prison for 23 years for a double murder he did not commit, is leaving the U.S. attorney’s office at the end of month. First, I heard from a source in a position to know that Morehead, who has a long history of misconduct complaints and findings, was leaving at the end of August and would be surrendering her law license in some kind of deal with the Kansas Office of the Disciplinary Administrator, the office that sanctions attorneys. So I called Morehead’s attorney, John J. Ambrosio, and told him the two things I’d heard. “The latter part is incorrect,” he said of the idea she was going to give up her law license. “She’s retiring,” period. Ambrosio said he couldn’t tell me anything else about the circumstances of her retirement, and neither the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas nor the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator responded to messages on Friday.
But among the many who consider themselves her victims, just the news that she’ll be stepping down is cause for jubilation. “Finally! The wicked witch is dead,” McIntyre told me. “That’s what they said about (Roger) Golubski, too, that he was just retiring, when it was really too hot in the kitchen” for him to stay. Golubski, the former KCKPD detective who arrested then 17-year-old McIntyre and along with Morehead, pressured Niko Quinn to say that she’d seen him shoot her two cousins in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1994, was arrested last year and has been charged with federal civil rights violations for crimes that include rape, kidnapping and protecting sex traffickers. He’s pleaded not guilty to all charges.
McIntyre was exonerated in part on evidence that showed that as the Wyandotte County assistant prosecutor on his case, Morehead had coerced a witness, knowingly presented false testimony and suppressed exculpatory evidence — all in collusion with Golubski. She’d also had a relationship with the judge, J. Dexter Burdette, who presided over McIntyre’s trial, and yet had neither recused herself nor disclosed this to the defense. Burdette retired five years ago. Whatever the reason she’s stepping down, McIntyre said, “she can’t do no more evil, can’t send nobody else to prison, even on the civil side,” where she was reassigned in 2021. “I’ve got to celebrate this, because that’s a victory, no matter what they say.” ‘I’ll throw your Black ass in jail’ Quinn told me two years ago that Morehead had threatened her, saying she’d either testify that she’d seen McIntyre kill Doniel Quinn and Donald Ewing or “I’ll throw your Black ass in jail and you’ll never see your children again.” The news that Morehead is retiring is “good news for me,” Quinn said on Friday, because “she has ruined people’s lives for decades. I’m grateful, but I wish she could be held accountable for her deeds” instead of just taking retirement at age 61.
McIntyre’s attorney, Cheryl Pilate, said in a statement that “on behalf of Lamonte McIntyre and others prosecuted by Ms. Morehead, I can say there is a sense of relief, but that sense remains incomplete. There is a strong desire for a full review of her cases, so that there can be full accountability and, hopefully, some justice.”
There are still two complaints against Morehead pending before the disciplinary office, both of them lodged by Kansas Federal Public Defender Melody Brannon, who in a previous complaint wrote: “How does she still have a law license? Our office fields this question about Terra Morehead on a regular basis. She is a career prosecutor who has abused her power for decades” and “repeatedly directed her abuse towards the people of Wyandotte County, one of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Kansas.” Lamonte McIntyre lost 23 years of his life in prison for a double murder he did not commit. Lamonte McIntyre lost 23 years of his life in prison for a double murder he did not commit. Facebook/Lamonte McIntyre Long string of misconduct accusations
In 2000, Morehead used 10 of 12 peremptory strikes to prevent Black people from serving on the jury in a state murder case. The 10th Circuit later found that “at least one peremptory challenge was substantially motivated by race.”
In 2003, DEA agent Timothy McCue sideswiped a car, then he chased down its driver, Barron Bowling, beat and arrested him. Bowling was acquitted and sued, eventually winning damages for assault, battery, and excessive use of force. KCKPD detective Max Seifert resisted pressure to cover up McCue’s conduct; he investigated and documented the incident, and later testified at Bowling’s criminal trial. But after Bowling’s acquittal, Morehead began falsely telling others in the law enforcement community that Seifert had botched investigations and was not credible. In police training sessions, she even used Seifert as an example of a problematic officer whose credibility “problem” would have to be disclosed to defense counsel in any criminal case.
In 2007, as a federal prosecutor, Morehead adopted one unbreakable rule: If a person charged with a federal crime requested pretrial release, she would seek the harshest possible statutory mandatory minimum penalty. In 2016, on the morning Gregory Orozco was to go on trial for drug trafficking, Morehead filed to double his sentencing exposure, and for the first time disclosed exculpatory evidence that should have been made available to the defense team much earlier. She downplayed the importance of this as a “lack of candor” that the district court later described as “quite troubling.”
During Orozco’s trial, Morehead let a defense witness know, through his lawyer, that his testimony would have adverse consequences, so the witness decided not to testify. The district court later concluded that Morehead had substantially interfered with Orozco’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial and vacated his conviction. In 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree dramatically reduced the prison sentence of a man convicted on drug and counterfeiting charges because Morehead had not been forthcoming with evidence the defense had a right to during her prosecution of Jay Giannukos. “She failed in her duty to do justice and that misconduct provides the reason for the substantial variance reflected in the custody component of Mr. Giannukos’ sentence,” Crabtree said. He reduced Giannukos’ sentence from 20 years to nine. The complaints against Morehead that are still going forward involve the Orozco and Giannukos cases.
Don’t know how many wrongful convictions The harm done by Morehead won’t end with her tenure, in part because we still don’t know how many others she wrongly convicted. The federal charges against Golubski accuse him of raping Ophelia Williams a number of times after initially coming to her home to participate in the arrest of her then 14-year-old twins, who were charged with murder and sent to prison 24 years ago. Both were prosecuted by Morehead in cases overseen by Judge Burdette. Yet Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree has never taken a new look at even that case, involving two kids put away by Golubski, Morehead and Burdette, and how messed up is that? “Whenever he sees me at a community meeting,” Williams said of Dupree, “the first thing that comes out of his mouth is, “I can’t do anything, Miss Ophelia.” Or won’t, anyway. When the name “Golubski” is mentioned, “Morehead” usually is, too. With her office, the U.S. attorney’s office, prosecuting him, her presence may finally have become too problematic to ignore. This story was originally published August 11, 2023, 4:41 PM.