Mendocino County prosecutors are telling state authorities that a criminal investigation into a six-month-old sexual assault allegation against former Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich “is still ongoing and is under review with the assistance of another county.”
The state agency to date is the only source of updated information about a high-profile police misconduct case seemingly encircled in a blue wall of silence by Eyster and other local authorities.
Why is unclear.
District Attorney Dave Eyster refuses to comment about the Waidelich case, which is being described in local enforcement circles as a basic ‘he said, she said’ scenario. Eyster has had the conclusions of an outside investigation conducted by Sonoma County since late summer.
Waidelich, a well-known Mendocino County cop, was stripped of his police duties in mid-June after a local woman complained that the former police chief while on duty and in uniform demanded oral sex from her during an encounter in June.
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall learned of the allegation and immediately asked his counterpart in Sonoma County to investigate to avoid possible conflict. The results of the Sonoma County investigation were turned over to Eyster in late summer, but the findings remain under wrap.
Eyster’s refusal to act, or comment on the Waidelich case, leaves the former police chief in legal limbo. It also exacerbates concerns about how police misconduct cases are handled locally.
Waidelich’s case is the second high-profile police misconduct case that Eyster’s office has handled in the past year.
A public furor erupted in July when Eyster’s office agreed to a plea bargain deal for former Ukiah Police Sgt. Kevin Murray, who originally faced sexual assault allegations from two women. But after two trial delays, Eyster unexpectedly agreed to a plea deal with Murray’s defense team from the Santa Rosa law firm of Andrian & Gallenson regarded among the best in Northern California. Three serious felony sex charges were dismissed in return for guilty pleas by Murray to lesser charges. Instead of a minimum year in jail as recommended by Sonoma County probation authorities, Murray was placed on probation.
The disputed plea agreement was publicly ripped by one of the alleged victims, a Washington state nursing professional, and friend of a former Murray wife, as a ‘sweetheart’ deal. There also was a spate of public protests outside the Mendocino County Courthouse in downtown Ukiah.
In the Waidelich case, it is only through statements from the state Attorney General’s Office that the public has learned any details.
Eyster turned to the AG’s Office in late September seeking a possible recusal from prosecution of Waidelich, but state prosecutors determined there is no reason why the DA cannot decide if charging is warranted.
The scope of the Waidelich investigation was first revealed publicly in an official state AG response to Eyster in November.
The AG letter then stated in part, “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.”
Eyster has refused to publicly comment on any aspect of the case, despite the seriousness of a sexual assault allegation involving a police chief in uniform.
The identity of the woman, known as a supporter of military and local law enforcement, is known but not publicly revealed. She has declined through an intermediary to talk about her encounter with Waidelich.
Eyster refused to release the contents of his original request to the state AG under the state Public Records Act. He insists the information is ‘privileged.’
In a Nov. 15 letter of refusal signed by Eyster’s chief assistant, Dale Trigg, Eyster claimed any disclosure would “endanger the successful completion of the overall investigation or related investigation.”
Asked for a further review, the state AG on Monday concluded that because Eyster maintains the Waidelich investigation is still ongoing the contents of his letter can remain under wraps.
“As the investigation is ongoing and no decision has been made yet about whether charges should be filed, the public interest in disclosure of the letter is clearly outweighed by the public interest in facilitating an accurate and thorough investigation and maintaining the privacy of the complainant.”
Neither Eyster nor Trigg responded Monday to requests for comment on the latest AG statements.