Saturday, September 23, 2023

Questions Remain One Year After Sexual Assault Allegations Led to the Firing of Ukiah’s Police Chief

Former Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich [Photograph from UPD]

Noble Waidelich answered the call as any good insurance agent might. 

Waidelich was pleasant and professional, remaining calm even after learning the caller seeks a possible update about a sexual assault allegation made exactly one year ago today that led to his abrupt firing as Chief of the Ukiah Police Department.

 “I don’t have anything to say,” said Waidelich, almost reluctantly. 

Waidelich, 44, is working at moving on with his life although he remains the focus of a pending federal civil rights lawsuit stemming from the alleged June 13, 2022, assault, and a subsequent criminal investigation that the District Attorney’s Office refuses to publicly discuss after one year of review. DA Dave Eyster stalls even though he has had the results of an outside probe conducted by Sonoma County authorities on his desk since late September.

In short, it is as if a blue wall of silence has been erected by local law enforcement authorities surrounding accusations against one of their own. Only a state Attorney General’s disclosure in November led to the public learning of the actual nature of the sexual assault allegations, which until then had been referred to only as a ‘criminal complaint.’

 ‘Nobey,’ as Waidelich is known to family and friends, is a personable Potter Valley native who rose through local law enforcement ranks to become Police Chief in November of 2021. The hope at the time was that Waidelich would restore luster to a local police department once considered the best in the region but buffeted in recent years by internal problems. 

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In a stunning turn of events, however, Waidelich only eight months later was sacked by city officials. City Manager Sage Sangiacomo then provided no details, declaring only in a written statement that, “Our community deserves better; the good men and women who do this work every day with integrity deserve better.”

Waidelich’s sudden downfall rocked the department and the county’s law enforcement community. Since, serious questions about how his case has been handled by authorities remains. They imposed a strict code of silence on Waidelich’s alleged misconduct, and they have kept any details among themselves.

It was one year ago today that Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall was called by his predecessor Tom Allman and informed that a Ukiah woman who was an acquaintance was claiming Waidelich had sexually assaulted her.

Kendall spoke with the woman, and then immediately referred the allegation to Sonoma County authorities for an outside investigation. Sonoma sheriff investigators declined to talk publicly about conclusions in their report, which was turned over to DA Eyster last September for possible criminal prosecution.

The public only learned more details about the sensational allegations when a Los Angeles law firm acting on behalf of the Ukiah woman in late February of this year filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. She is only identified in court documents as ‘Jane Doe.’

The lawsuit is now under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. It alleges that Waidelich “on duty, in uniform, and wearing a badge and carrying a firearm” showed up at the woman’s home and demanded sex. 

Waidelich’s conduct toward the woman is described in the lawsuit as “cruel, unusual, malicious, sadistic, offensive to human dignity, sexually abusive, sexually harassing, and for his own gratification.” The woman contended she is undergoing counseling because of the “great mental and physical pain” suffered during her encounter with the former police chief, and the “grief, shock, humiliation, self-degradation, shame, disgust, isolation and apprehension” that followed.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified general damages, medical and related expenses, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

Megan Lieber, a Walnut Creek attorney representing Waidelich, said when asked about the status of the federal case: “We have no comment.”

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Eric Rose, a spokesman for the Los Angeles law firm of Johnston & Hutchinson acting on behalf of the woman, suggested the local DA’s investigation into possible criminal prosecution is still pending.

“Due to the ongoing investigation by the District Attorney and to preserve the integrity of the legal process and ensure fairness for all parties involved, we will refrain from commenting,” said Rose.

The allegations that led to Waidelich’s downfall were the latest in a string of local police misconduct cases whose details authorities have largely kept under wraps.

Besides refusing to discuss specifics of the Waidelich case, prosecutors will not give updates about another sex-related case involving a former Willits police lieutenant, or their reasoning behind a controversial plea deal last summer involving the dismissal of three felony sex-related charges and a misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine charge against a disgraced Ukiah police sergeant. 

National statistics show that sexually related police misconduct cases in California and across the country rank second only to excessive force allegations by errant law enforcement officers.

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  1. At every level of society, the ”law” now often becomes either a shield or a club, depending on the accused and the circumstances. Too bad.

  2. One year ago and still nothing. This is disgusting, to say the least. People should be outraged by this DA’s inability to do his job! This is not a victimless crime. Yet this victim has had to file a lawsuit against the ex chief of police because the DA still sits on this case. Appalling! When the victim of a crime has to find their own justice, it just reeks volumes of someone’s inability to carry out their job.

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