Friday, July 19, 2024

‘A Public Execution Without Knowing What the Condemned Man Did’—Reflections on the Noble Waidelich Saga


Mike Geniella’s incisive voice and watchful eye have been aimed at Mendocino County for many decades as a long-standing reporter for the Press Democrat and the spokesman for Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office. Now retired, Geniella finds the writing habit hard to shake. We’re excited to host a column from him sharing his thoughts, comments, and concerns about life here in Mendocino County.

Fired Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich [Photograph from Ukiah Police Department’s 2020 Annual Report]

It felt like witnessing a public execution without knowing what the condemned man did.

The sudden downfall this past week of popular Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich rocked the community and local law enforcement. Waidelich was first placed on paid administrative leave, but just three days later he was fired without any public explanation of his alleged misconduct.

There are still no official reasons given other than a vague pending ‘criminal investigation’ by Sonoma County authorities, and unspecified department ‘policy violations’ that were cited by city officials in their sudden announcement Friday that Waidelich had been stripped of his weapon, vehicle, and badge.

It was a stomach-churning end to the career of a Police Chief who less than a year ago was touted as a personable young guy who could lead the 18-officer department out of a troubled stretch.

‘Nobey’ was a local boy from Potter Valley who started his law enforcement career in 2005 with Ukiah police and rose through the ranks before being named Chief last Fall. He was earning $187,000 per year in his new post.

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Why Waidelich was abruptly fired Friday is still unknown. The facts are few. The questions are many. 

Waidelich is silent, and so is his attorney, retired Judge James King.

Little is known about the ‘criminal investigation’ Sonoma County authorities are conducting into Waidelich’s conduct. Nor what ‘policy violations’ city officials claim are unrelated to the probe but were enough to warrant the police chief’s abrupt termination on Friday.

Ukiah City Manager Sage Sangiacomo said in a bombshell announcement that “recent events” show that “this individual is not a good fit for the City.”

Without any elaboration, Sangiacomo declared, “Our community deserves better; the good men and women who do this work every day with integrity deserve better.”

Later city officials insisted unspecified ‘policy violations’ were enough to fire Waidelich without them knowing any results of the pending criminal probe by Sonoma County authorities. That investigation was triggered on Monday of last week when a complaint was made to Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall, who because of his department’s close ties with Ukiah police, asked for an outside review.

Just like that, after a stellar career in local law enforcement, Waidelich was dismissed as ‘not a good fit for our city.’

When city officials named Waidelich to the chief’s position in November, he was touted as the guy who could turn around the troubles the department had experienced in recent months: the arrest of a recently promoted police sergeant in a sex case, and the beating of a naked mentally ill man. 

In Waidelich’s background, however, lurked a past run in with domestic abuse allegations. City and county law enforcement leaders were aware of them even if the public, in general, was not. 

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The abuse accusations surfaced in 2015 from a former county probation officer, Amanda Carley. She was at the time Waidelich’s live-in partner in a home they had bought together. 

Despite the abuse allegations, Waidelich’s law enforcement career continued to flourish. He emerged cleared of any suspected charges and continued to rise in the ranks until he was appointed police chief. 

Former girlfriend Carley suffered a sharply different fate. She was stripped of her law enforcement duties, her abuse claims were dismissed as impossible to prove, and worst she was branded a liar.

District Attorney David Eyster, who sees himself as the county’s chief law enforcement officer, declined to file any charges in the case, and he openly castigated Carley for her changing stories to investigators over an extended period. Eyster eventually took the draconian step of listing Carley on the so-called ‘Brady List,’ a roster of unreliable law enforcement officers who are blocked from testifying as witnesses in court cases.

Carley’s career collapsed. She left town but Carley clings to her hopes that a civil lawsuit accusing county officials of retaliating against her for making her abuse claims will still prevail despite setbacks. It is now scheduled for trial in September. Through a legal technicality, Eyster has been dismissed from the lawsuit because he successfully argued on appeal that his actions as District Attorney were protected under law.

Waidelich in the meantime moved onto a new marriage and family, and for several months enjoyed the prominence of his new position as the community’s Police Chief.

Now his life too is in disarray. His career is seemingly over. 

Sonoma County authorities say it may be two weeks before the outcome of the investigation into Waidelich’s alleged misconduct is known. In the meantime, Police Captain Cedric Crook is the interim police chief.

Sonoma County authorities say the results of their investigation will be referred to DA Eyster for review, and possible prosecution.

Eyster, given his past ties to the tangled abuse case involving Waidelich and Carley, should consider turning the results of the Sonoma investigation over to an independent agency for review and a decision on whether prosecution is warranted.

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Public trust needs to be met, and not just internal City Hall and law enforcement procedures.

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  1. They should have posted the whole story of why she went on the Brady list to protect him by denying he hurt her which most victims do….until they realize they are in a bad situation. Big piece of evidence missing and why he was terminated if you are going to report something report all of it!

  2. Behind the cannabis curtain. Mendocino County, where the truth is always hidden until it comes forth as something else. An excellent opinion piece by Mike Geniella. Did Waidelich kill somebody or is this Amber Heard all over again? The public has a right to know, especially if public figures, such as Sheriff Kendal and the mayor of Ukiah, are raising unanswered questions in the public domain.

    • So let’s get this straight: DA Eyster wiggled out of this mess with Cary and now he may prosecute the police chief for the allegations Cary has directed against both of them albeit different complaints? So the guy who’s entitled to immunity after going after Cary, becomes responsible for hanging his co-defendant, if, in fact, this is what it’s all about?

  3. Although the whole story is still a huge mystery, doesn’t it seem like DA Eyster should not be anywhere near this case. It doesn’t take A genius or a law scholar to realize there is a conflict of interest. DA Eyster used a process (SLAPP) to remove himself from a current civil lawsuit involving the same players. Seems pretty clear that Eyster should be recused from this case, period.

    • I agree, DA Eyster should be recused from the case! I’m not familiar with law cases and procedures but from what I just read there is conflict of interest here.

  4. Finally, a well-thought out and intelligent article. Thank you Mr. Geniella.

    One thing’s for sure…there is a lot more to this story.

    Unfortunately, the cart has been professionally manipulated to appear miles before the horse by the inflamed public court. Hire an encouraging, cunning lawyer, take an “innocent victim” photo shoot, go national — mission accomplished. “There’s gold in them thar hills.”

    Knowing several characters in this drama, I more than highly doubt Mr. Waidelich is worthy of the atrocity directed at him by his timely choreographed chorus of accusers, but I wasn’t there so I truly don’t know. I’m just framing my opinions on the long-standing reputations duly earned by the characters in question and I could be wrong. However, if I am, I would be even more shocked than I am now watching this debacle unfold.

    What I find particularly injurious and unnecessary, are the individuals involved in the “policy“ and “legal” systems, who cower and make quick, hasty decisions out of desperation to remove the “heat” away from themselves and their agencies when the unhinged have carte blanche to the social media “court room” and cut loose. Whatever happened to the courageous leader that was willing to take the heat for true and proper justice? (Answer: He may have just been fired.)

    Did Mr. Waidelich truly abuse Ms. Carly to the extent she is claiming, perform a separate criminal offense, and violate a police policy (the latter two just popping up coincidentally the next business day after Judge Nadel granted a trial jury in Ms. Carly’s case?) Were any of these alleged offenses heinous enough to ruin his reputation and career immediately, before he could even answer to any of them? Because of the heightened secrecy shrouding any facts, societies’ worst preconceived notions of mistrust in law enforcement have successfully been inflamed and assures the reality that it may be too late for any truth to be heard and for Mr. Waidelich’s person and career to be exonerated if, in fact, he is innocent.

    Here’s the truth: The public does not know, and neither does any court of law. The current journalistic and social media platforms are the demise of today’s society and are exponentially worse than the old lynching mobs that plagued our past.

    • It might behoove you to do a little research on the dynamics of domestic violence. Also, check into re-victimizing the victim.

      Did it ever occur to you that Ms. Carley‘s reputation was judged years before any of these actions occurred. Her ability to have her day in court was removed prior to any actions cause by her. That’s where the victim blaming process begins. Talk about putting the horse before the cart. She lost a career in law enforcement in the blink of that same horses blinder.

      • Thank you Porter. It’s AMAZING to me how
        Ignorant people can be to this truth. They can keep their eyes closed to the truth; if joy really believe Noble is a great guy and you want to talk shit about “the characters” in this story then your well deserving of the title ignorant. Please come to the trial; everyone would love to prove how wrong you are.
        Then again, you likely will endorse his criminal conduct forever.

  5. What a nice flashy title. I guess I missed the “public execution” in the town square. Come on Geniella, nobody was executed. Do better.

    • Yeah…you missed it alright!!!
      Maybe go back and read all the ridicule in the comments of several local online papers for the many articles written on this subject matter so far.
      The mob is hyped.


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