Sunday, January 29, 2023

District Attorney Remains Silent Regarding Accusations of Sexual Assault Committed by Ex-Ukiah Police Chief

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Former Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich [Photograph from UPD]

Mendocino County District Attorney Dave Eyster continues to stonewall the status of an investigation into allegations that fired Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich sexually assaulted a woman while on duty and in uniform. The probe has dragged on for five months, with few details made public.

Now Eyster is refusing to provide details about his recent attempt to pass off the Waidelich case to the state Attorney General’s Office for review and possible prosecution of Waidelich.

In early November state Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office readily released a written response to Eyster’s formal request for a possible recusal from the high-profile Waidelich case, the second police misconduct prosecution handled by Eyster’s office this year.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Laurence concluded that “a recusal inquiry must focus on whether there is evidence demonstrating the likelihood that the Waidelich investigation will not be handled in a fair manner, and not on how proceeding with the local prosecutor may appear to the public.”

Eyster is refusing to release the contents of the formal request he made to the state Attorney General for a review, even though the state’s response already has been made public.

So far Eyster has not publicly addressed any concerns about the Waidelich case, or his office’s controversial prosecution this past summer of a former Ukiah Police sergeant who had been accused of sexually assaulting two other women. At the last minute, the most serious sexual assault charges against veteran cop Kevin Murray were dismissed by Eyster’s office, and the disgraced officer was allowed to plea to lesser charges. He was placed on a year’s probation in what one of his alleged sexual assault victims labeled a ‘sweetheart plea bargain.’ 

Eyster continues to sit on any information relating to the Waidelich case, including formally refusing to publicly release a copy of his unusual request for state intervention. 

“Disclosure at this point in time would endanger the successful completion of the overall investigation or a related investigation,” the DA’s office claims.

Eyster is also contending that any information exchanged between him and state prosecutors is “privileged.” 

The DA’s formal denial of a request for information under the state Public Records Act is dated Nov. 15 and signed by Eyster’s top assistant Dale Trigg. It declares that the office is exempt from public record act provisions because the DA letter to the Attorney General reflects “impressions, conclusions, opinions or legal research or theories.” 

The state AG’s Office, meanwhile, says it is processing the request for disclosure of Eyster’s original letter of recusal request and will advise. Under state law, public agencies have 10 working days to respond.

Eyster has publicly refused to provide any information since the Waidelich case rocked local law enforcement five months ago, including identifying the specific allegations made by a Ukiah Valley woman. Local law enforcement for months has only publicly acknowledged an investigation is being conducted into an unspecified ‘criminal complaint’ made against Waidelich.

 It was not until the state AG’s written response to Eyster in early November that the public finally learned that what is really at issue is a criminal complaint of sexual assault. 

The AG’s Office publicly stated that “The investigation arose from a complaining witness’ June 13, 2022, complaint to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office that Mr. Waidelich sexually assaulted her while he was on duty.”

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall took the complaint and at the time immediately asked for an outside investigation by Sonoma County authorities into the bombshell accusation. Within days, Waidelich was fired. Sonoma’s conclusions were turned over to Eyster’s office by late summer, but the DA refuses to comment on any findings, or whether there may be grounds for possible prosecution.

Besides keeping the public in the dark, the uncertainty of the case status hangs over the heads of Waidelich, a well-known Potter Valley native who rose through police department ranks to become chief in November 2021, and members of his family.  The Waidelich and Murray cases taint local law enforcement in general, to the dismay of longtime officers and their superiors.

Waidelich declines to comment on the criminal accusation he faces.

City Manager Sage Sangiacomo said at the time the police chief was abruptly fired that personnel policies limited any detailed explanation behind Waidelich’s sudden firing other than he violated established city policies. Sangiacomo said the actions of the former police chief were unworthy of the position he held, and that the community deserved better. Veteran Ukiah Police Captain Cedric Cook currently is serving as interim police chief.

Waidelich’s unresolved case continues to dog the former police chief, city officials, and DA Eyster.

The lack of any public statement by prosecutors, and the fact that details are still under wraps months after the criminal investigation was launched has only exacerbated public concerns about the second high-profile police misconduct case to be aired this year. The woman involved is well known by local law enforcement and is a friend of many. She has, through an intermediary, declined to speak publicly about her experience with Waidelich.

Some insiders in the local law enforcement community believe Eyster may simply let the statute of limitations apply in the case without any public explanation. They say there appears to be no evidence to support the prosecution of a criminal act, but that Waidelich’s conduct as police chief “was definitely outside any acceptable norm.”

For the public, however, it is hard to judge the reality of Waidelich’s predicament.  Nothing is officially known about his encounter on June 13 by anyone except the woman, and investigators who looked into her criminal complaint. Eyster’s office for weeks has had the results and the time to decide whether there is any evidence to support the claim of sexual assault.

In effect, a blue wall of silence encircles Waidelich’s case.

This is the second of two cases that have raised questions about how allegations of police misconduct are handled in Mendocino County.

In July, former Murray and his team of Santa Rosa lawyers struck a plea deal with Eyster and his assistant prosecutor Heidi Larson. Murray, whose criminal trial on five felony charges including sexual assault was twice postponed, ended up with only a year probation after three of the most serious charges were dropped by the DA’s office.

Murray’s plea deal provoked condemnation from one alleged sexual assault victim, generated widespread media coverage, and sparked demonstrations outside the Mendocino County Courthouse. Since the plea deal, Eyster has limited public comments on the DA’s web page, an act that flaunts accepted standards for government information sites. 


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Is she a prositut? Eyster probably was in on it to. UKIAH wake up your UPD is corrupt!
    The cover ups, rape,drug use, beatings. There all dirty!

  2. “We want to hear your side of the story. We’re not on anyone’s side. We just want the truth. We’re here to help you. Why do you need an attorney” said all law enforcement, everywhere! They know better than to make any statements or release any info because its incriminating! I hope this woman can 1 day find the courage to go public with her story in a civil suit or something. Or someone on the inside grows a pair & leaks some info! In the meantime, do what they do, & keep your mouth shut when being asked questions by law enforcement. When they ask what you have to hide, you can cite this investigation.

  3. Here is my question; Can the DA legally let the statute of limitations expire and let this case dwindle away to nothing? That sounds pretty negligent to me. Also shows a lack of the DA doing his job! When is enough enough? Don’t we as tax paying citizens have the right to know what the DA’s office does? Is it time for the Grand Jury to step in and question some folks? It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out there is a problem in this County. I’m just asking what I feel are some simple questions.

    • Unfortunately, the grand jury won’t do anything either. I sent the grand jury a complaint, along with evidence of corruption when Eyster pulled his bullshit in 2015 protecting “Nobie”.
      The grand jury ignored it.

  4. Mendocino County deserves answers. Many of our teenagers don’t feel safe or protected by those sworn to serve in law enforcement, and who can blame them? How many adults, especially girls and women, don’t feel safe because of the corruption in law enforcement and the DAs office in this county?

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