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Waidelich accuser to get a jury trial

A view of the top of a building from the ground. A sign at the top says Mendocino County Courthouse. Reflections of trees in the windows.
Mendocino County Courthouse.

Amanda Carley, who says Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich abused her and that the County of Mendocino and the Probation Department retaliated, has a court date in September.

June 13, 2022 — Five years after filing a lawsuit against Mendocino County and her ex-boyfriend, Amanda Carley will have a chance to make her case in court.

Carley is suing the county, the probation department, her boss at the time, and Noble Waidelich, who is now the chief of the Ukiah Police Department. At a hearing on Friday morning, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Jeanine Nadel granted Carley’s request for a jury trial, scheduled to begin on September 26 of this year.

The fifteen-count complaint, filed in April 2017, accuses Waidelich of physical and emotional abuse and breach of oral contract, for failing to adhere to agreements to pay Carley her share of an investment in a home they bought together. Her complaints against the county and probation department stem from what she alleges was a conspiracy of mistreatment after she made contradictory reports of abuse by Waidelich. Waidelich was a member of the Ukiah Police Department and Carley was an adult probation officer. Defendant Albert Ganter was the head of the department in 2015, when Carley’s daughter Madisyn told a school counselor that her mother was being abused. The counselor, who was required to report the statement to the authorities, did so, which led to Andrew Porter of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office interviewing Carley in April of 2015.

Porter was was dubious at her denials of abuse. “I explained to Amanda that I believed she was minimizing incidents and involvement and I told her I understand her concerns,” he wrote. He added that “Amanda appeared deceptive and caught off guard by several of my questions and she countered with what sounded like a rehearsed statement about not being abused or being held against her will.”

Porter wrote that prior to his interview with Carley, the Ukiah Police Department hired independent investigator Bill Cogbill to investigate Waidelich, but nothing came of it because Carley denied that she was being abused. Porter’s final entries about his contacts with Carley state that he spoke with her again in July of 2015. “I told Amanda I did not believe she was honest with me when I previously interviewed her,” he reported. “Amanda agreed with me that she was not.” He concluded by describing photographs that Carley sent him of injuries she said Waidelich inflicted on her. But by then, District Attorney David Eyster had returned the investigation to the sheriff’s office for lack of credible evidence. Eyster did not prosecute Waidelich.

Michelle Roberts, the director of the Fort Bragg office of Project Sanctuary, a non-profit organization that advocates for, counsels, and houses families who are seeking to escape domestic violence, told KZYX last year, in an interview about a separate suit against Waidelich by Amanda Carley’s daughter Madisyn, that it’s typical for people experiencing domestic violence to deny it. “People often don’t understand that there’s many reasons people stay in abusive relationships, or that it takes them a long time to get out,” she said.

Carley believes she was unfairly punished for behaving as a typical victim of domestic violence. In 2016, Eyster placed her on the “Brady list,” a database of law enforcement officers who are known to be dishonest. This effectively disqualifies officers from testifying in court, because they are not considered reliable. Eyster believed that the contradictory statements in Porter’s report made Carley vulnerable to a subpoena if she testified in prosecutions. Carley claimed that Eyster and the probation department conspired to place her on the list, investigate and demote her, and deprive her of her weapon, in order to silence her.

The 2017 complaint alleges that, following her placement on the “Brady list,” she was subject to a hostile work environment in the probation department, including sexual harassment and constant humiliation. She contends the deprivation of her service weapon rendered her unable to fulfill her Constitutional duties in a manner that ensured her own safety and that of others. She claims that the county, the department, and her boss at the time, Albert Ganter, authorized conditions that were discriminatory and designed to punish her for reporting the crime of domestic violence of her.

Eyster was included in the original complaint, but the court found that he was protected by the anti-SLAPP statute. This is a free speech law in California that protects people from being personally sued for four categories of speech about activities “in connection with a public issue,” including written and oral statements connected with lawful, official proceedings. Eyster was removed from the list of defendants four years ago.

The case wound its way through the court for years. In 2020, it traveled from judicial review to an “active shelf” to the basement of the courthouse in Ukiah. On Friday morning, Judge Nadel faced lawyers for the plaintiff, the county, and Waidelich, and demanded to know why no one had done any work on the case. She said the head clerk was on hand to verify that the file had been available all along, and that she had specifically included a note saying that the case was open. Why, with the deadline for a trial date looming in October, was the plaintiff requesting one now?

Richard Freeman of Sonoma County, who is representing Amanda Carley and her daughter Madisyn in her separate civil suit against Waidelich, said that on October 18, 2021, the court’s website reflected that the case was closed. “That led us to believe it would be futile and impractical to proceed,” he informed the court. When he checked again on December 3, he said, the website indicated that the case was open. “I was reasonably diligent,” he argued. The head clerk conducted a quick search of the website and concluded that this was an accurate representation of the matter.

But Deputy County Counsel Brina Blanton protested that the short notice for the upcoming trial was “punishing the defendants,” especially since an attorney is leaving her office, and she will be forced to dedicate all her working hours to discovery in the case. Nadel informed her that she herself had previously served as county counsel, with fewer attorneys in the office than there are now, and that she had been “very aggressive” in defending the county. “I know your boss is here,” she said, of County Counsel Christian Curtis’ presence. She told them that “The absence of Eyster affects your case,” without elaborating how, and that there were instances when she, in their position, had worked hard and “wiped out the plaintiff.”

James King, representing Waidelich, also argued that the timeline was “totally unfair,” saying that it “jams our office to the max.” He complained that “this is going to be a he said, she said case,” and requested a number of considerations, including the right to conduct in-person depositions in Mendocino County, rather than Southern California, where the Carleys now live; and shortened time, meaning that witnesses will have fifteen days instead of thirty to respond to summonses to be deposed. Nadel granted both requests, and appeared open to a short extension beyond mid-October. She also suggested the possibility of bringing the matter before a settlement judge. A court official reported that, since the end of the pandemic shutdowns, responses to jury summonses are at an all-time low, sometimes with only forty people out of 500 showing up for jury duty.

A confidential settlement conference in the case is scheduled for June 23. Waidelich requested a July 8 hearing for the case to be dismissed.