Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A Blue Wall of Silence Encircles the Case of Ukiah’s Former Police Chief—Letter to the Editor

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Former Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich [Picture from UPD]

So, 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 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 Waidelich. 

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 when questioned 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 primary source of her family’s economic security. Investigators ultimately concluded she was telling the truth.

But 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.

-Mike Geniella

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11 COMMENTS

  1. “Another source said, “hard evidence” is lacking…” Also: “Carley claims the DA was the ‘architect’ of a smear campaign against her…” Unnamed sources and unsubstantiated claims, not the best evidence for Mike Geniella’s chance for a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism in his ongoing smear campaign against the DA. What’s next? A “source” has recently revealed to Mike Geniella that as a kid David Eyster was seen on top of the grassy knoll? Obsession and vengeance, there’s a thin line in between.

    • You, Mr. Koepf, seem to know more than most about the thin line between ‘obsession and vengeance,’ and ‘smear campaigns.’

      • And you, dear Mike, should stop stealing my lines to inflate your sagging journalism and personal vendetta against the DA. Vengence reeks scant reward. You claim to be a journalist. Act accordingly. Gossip is not journalism.

    • Thanks for writing this. I wondered why we hadn’t heard anything about the investigation. Public confidence in the UPD has taken some hard hits and the blue wall of silence is real.

      On another note, who is Michael Koepf in all of this and why, Michael, are you so driven to attack Mike Geniella’s writing of late? Sounds like you might have a personal stake in all of this.

      • Dear Darkness. In this case, I’d say my personal stake is fairness and honesty, especially in journalism. Apparently, Geniella has, admittedly in print, a personal issue against Eyster as a result of their former working relationship. In the meantime, Geniella has been using rumors and innuendo to connect the DA to whatever situation he chooses. And, I might add, I don’t know the DA at all. Now, what’s your angle Mr. unknown, and why don’t you have the courage to use your real name?

    • You’re not some hero because you use your real name or because you are admittedly a good writer. You’re really a bully with a horse in the race. Sorry your friends in law enforcement & the DA office are pieces of shit! I can only assume that you yourself are as well. We are the company we keep. If you are so hard up on what you deem to be bad journalism why don’t you get off your lazy ass & go get us some answers on these matters you seem to think are non-issues.

      • “…your friends in law enforcement…” Law enforcement are our friends. They’d even help the despicable, cop-hating likes of you likes of you if you needed them. Mike Geniella, this man in a fake mask name is typical of the audience you’ve been cultivating and encouraging for these past several weeks in your personal crusade against the man you used to work for.

  2. Funny how all of these commenters are men, regarding a story that is really just about the abuse of women, two of them fellow police officers. Mike Geniella expresses everyone’s impatience with a foot-dragging DA who seems dead in the water when it comes to cases regarding police and sheriff brutality and incompetence, as well as Eyster’s own intolerance for female complaints about flagrant violations – and obvious conflict of interest on Eyster’s part. It’s a mare’s nest, everyone knows it, and yet, the paralysis of our justice system continues.

    • “Now, what’s your angle Mr. unknown, and why don’t you have the courage to use your real name?”

      Courage or idiocy? I suggest there’s a fine line between the two and each person decides for themselves without need for explanation whether they wish to post their name publicly.

      My angle? As a woman in Mendo County, it is my hope that the victim in this case will receive justice. Presuming you are correct that Mike Geniella formerly worked for David Eyster, I am all the more grateful that he resisted the “good ol’ boy” code of silence and was willing to ask the questions most of us want asked.

      I am interested in the outcome of this case, the ramifications for women in this county, and the integrity of the UPD and DA…not whether you like or dislike the journalist who is reporting.

      So, Mr. Koepf, will you move beyond what appears to be your personal grudge against Geniella, expressed quite publicly, and use your own journalistic skills to investigate and report to the county what you find, or are we to continue to be treated to regular expressions of your dislike of your fellow journalist who is putting in print the questions many of us are asking?

      The facts are, this claim of yours is not a fact:
      “Law enforcement are our friends. They’d even help the despicable, cop-hating likes of you likes of you if you needed them.”
      You paint local law enforcement with a broad brush and limitless but unwarranted optimism.

      I second the challenge you were given by SMK. Meanwhile, thanks again to Geniella for voicing what many of us in the county are thinking, as Sarah has so eloquently expressed.

  3. These cop stories, in my opinion and also including deranged cops outside of our small corner of the world, all have an underlying cultural theme of trauma. PTSD
    Just like the drug addicts these cops are chasing, the police too have PTSD. Anyone studying psychology knows this shit is textbook overwhelm, powerlessness, trauma etc. The cops and criminals are 2 ends of the same spectrum.
    I’m not excusing anyone, but we need to see these connections otherwise it’s just a dog chasing it’s tail.
    Report the heck out of it. Make it known. No one is immune, no title, power or job will make you impermeable to trauma, anxiety and stress. No one can escape their own childhood. The darkness lies within all of us

    • PTSD does not give anyone the right to assault others. Police are no different. Coddling officers will do nothing to solve the problem, either. What is good for the public should be good for the officers the public pays to prevent and solve crimes. I have no grudge against the police, but treating them as a privileged population is a very dangerous precedent.

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