The unofficial word is that former Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich won’t face any criminal charges stemming from an investigation into a woman’s criminal complaint that he abused her in some fashion.
“Local investigators believe there is no evidence of any criminal act but his conduct as police chief was definitely outside of any acceptable norm,” said a law enforcement source with knowledge of the accusations made five months ago against Waidelich. Another source said, “hard evidence” is lacking “but he doesn’t belong in the police chief’s position.”
Hard to judge the reality of Waidelich’s predicament because nothing is officially known about the encounter by anyone except the woman, and law enforcement who looked into her criminal complaint. No one is saying anything about details although the former police chief’s story is a hot topic behind closed doors.
Waidelich was fired by City Manager Sage Sangiacomo on June 17 almost immediately after Sonoma County sheriff’s investigators were asked to review an assault allegation filed against the police chief by a Ukiah woman. She is a well-known supporter and friend of local law enforcement leaders. Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall, who was first alerted to the allegation, asked for the outside investigation because of the Ukiah police department’s close working relationship with his own department.
Ever since then Waidelich’s case has been shrouded in secrecy. Investigators, prosecutors, and attorneys involved remain mum about the circumstances, and any investigative findings. So does Waidelich, and his accuser.
A blue wall of silence encircles Waldelich.
His is one of two high profile police misconduct cases that have rocked local law enforcement this year, raising questions about how they are overseen by local authorities.
In July, a former Ukiah Police Sergeant agreed to a sweetheart plea deal struck by the Santa Rosa law firm of Andrian & Gellenson and District Attorney David Eyster and approved by the sentencing judge. Kevin Murray, whose trial was twice postponed, unexpectedly had three serious felony sex charges dropped by the DA’s Office. Probation officers independently recommended at least a year jail term for Murray even on the pared down charges, but eventually the disgraced cop was only placed on a year’s probation.
The plea deal provoked condemnation from an alleged sexual assault victim of Murray, and it generated widespread media coverage and demonstrations outside the Mendocino County Courthouse.
The apparent no charge scenario in Waidelich’s case is likely to create a stir too, which some sources believe is behind the DA’s move to delay announcing an outcome to allow more space between Murray’s controversial sentencing in late August. If Waidelich is not charged, some people are already wondering whether the former police chief might have grounds for a wrongful termination action.
City Manager Sage Sangiacomo, however, says he stands by his original assessment when he stripped Waidelich of his badge five months ago.
“Recent events have transpired, illuminating the fact that this individual is not a good fit for the city,” Sangiacomo said then. “Our community deserves better.” Sangiacomo also said then that Waidelich violated unspecified police department policies separate from and in addition to the criminal investigation.
Only a handful of people know any details of the Waidelich matter, and they are not talking.
The silence is especially deafening in face of the community controversy this summer over the Murray plea deal.
It is as if nothing has been learned by local authorities on how to manage high profile police misconduct cases. They issue press releases and statements on the most mundane of criminal matters including sentencing on misdemeanor DUI convictions but when it comes to one of their own, details about police misconduct seem to be shared only among themselves.
DA Eyster, for example, toyed for weeks after the completed Sonoma investigative report was turned over to him before he, under pressure, asked for an independent review by the state Attorney General’s Office on whether he has conflicts in deciding Waidelich’s fate.
Decide for yourselves.
In 2017, Eyster was named as one of the defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by a former live in partner of Waidelich. Two years before Amanda Carley, a county probation officer and former employee in the DA’s Office, had accused Waidelich of domestic abuse but Eyster refused to press charges. Carley admitted she initially was reluctant to cooperate with investigators after her daughter told school officials about the domestic violence going on in the family home. The woman, as typical in many domestic violence cases, said she was untruthful in the beginning because of the feared professional impact on Waidelich, a popular police officer, and her family’s economic security. Investigators ultimately concluded she was telling the truth.
Eyster not only declined to prosecute, but he also took the extraordinary step of listing Carley on a so-called “Brady List,” identifying her as unreliable as a witness in legal proceedings. The move effectively ended her career in local law enforcement.
Carley claims the DA was the “architect” of a smear campaign against her, and that his actions led her to leave her job and move to Southern California where she became a criminal investigator for the state.
Eyster eventually was able at a cost of $50,000 to county taxpayers to hire SF attorneys to have him stricken from the lawsuit under state Anti-Slapp provisions that grant prosecutors immunity from actions taken on the job.
It is clear DA Eyster is entangled in the messy Waidelich-Carley litigation. How can anyone believe he is able to act without prejudice in deciding the outcome of the current criminal complaint against Waidelich?
Let’s hope the state AG will review all aspects of the Waidelich case in a timely fashion.
Waidelich and the public deserve a fair and unbiased evaluation of this case. Nothing less. Why can’t Eyster and local law enforcement involved understand the importance of an objective review that the public can trust? The Waidelich case is of significant public interest. It is a former Police Chief we are talking about here.