© 2022 KZYX
redwood forest background
Mendocino County Public Broadcasting
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local News

Former Ukiah police chief accused of sexual assault

A portrait of blindfolded Lady Justice in a toga, with a set of scales in her left hand and a sword in her right.
A portrait of Lady Justice in the Mendocino County Courthouse in Ukiah.

Mike Geniella, a longtime local reporter, spoke to kzyx about a letter from the Attorney General's office to District Attorney David Eyster, declining his request to recuse himself from the decision about what to do about former Ukiah police chief Noble Waidelich, who was fired in June in the midst of an unspecified criminal investigation.

November 15, 2022 — Noble Waidelich, the former Ukiah Police Chief, has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman on June 13th of this year while on duty. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office handled the investigation, but details are sparse. Mike Geniella, a longtime reporter for the Press Democrat and former spokesman for District Attorney David Eyster, has called for Eyster to recuse himself from the case because of his aggressive treatment of a woman who is now pursuing Waidelich in civil court, claiming domestic violence.

Geniella reported on the State Attorney General’s review of the most recent allegation, and a few days ago, he broke the news that the AG had refused Eyster’s request to step away from the case. Geniella spoke with KZYX on Monday.

“So the case is back in Eyster’s lap,” Geniella said. “He’s had it for five months now. The details are sketchy, but we do know now, thanks to the Attorney General’s office, that what’s facing the former police chief is an accusation of sexual assault of a woman while on duty. That has been impossible to pin down until now. There’s really been a wall of silence — the blue wall of silence, around this case. Coming on the heels of the Sergeant Murray case, and how close these two cases are linked, in terms of the Ukiah police department, and what’s been going on there for quite some time, it’s left people wondering, what’s happening here?” In August, Eyster’s office prosecuted former Ukiah Police Sergeant Kevin Murray on charges much reduced from the original sex crimes and burglaries Murray was facing. One victim’s records were left out of the plea deal entirely, and Murray emerged with a sentence of two years probation and no jail time.

“The District Attorney has not said one word,” Geniella continued. “He’s not said one word about the Sergeant Murray case. He’s not said one word about the former police chief’s case. He simply is not talking, and frankly, no one else in law enforcement is talking.”

When Waidelich was first fired back in mid-June, Geniella spoke out about his opinion that Eyster should recuse himself, due to his history with Waidelich’s earlier accuser. But the Attorney General’s letter to Eyster, dated November 3, addresses matters of public opinion, and assures him that “the perception of a conflict does not require recusal or disqualification of the local elected prosecutor.” Geniella insists that this is not entirely a matter of public perception.

“Being aware of a pending lawsuit involving Noble Waidelich and a former county probation officer who used to work in the District Attorney’s office and later became a probation officer,” he said, referring to Amanda Carley’s suit against Waidelich for domestic abuse; “The D.A. declined to prosecute (Waidelich), based on her complaints that were investigated by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department. Not only did he decline to prosecute, but he took the extraordinary step of placing her on a so-called Brady list, which in effect says, a law enforcement officer cannot be relied upon to be a witness. And as a result she ultimately left the county and went to southern California and became a criminal investigator for the state, so clearly someone thought she was truthful. I believe that the Attorney General’s office is saying two things: one: public perception, Mr. Eyster, is not the issue. He has the results of the Sonoma County outside investigation into this matter. He is the District Attorney. He has the latitude, just as he did with the earlier case, to make the decision…I think the District Attorney finds himself in a very difficult position here. All these people are known. We know who the victim is.” The alleged victim remains anonymous, but Geniella maintains that “she is a friend of top law enforcement leaders…it’s just my speculation, but the State Attorney General’s office said, Mr. Eyster, it’s not public perception. It’s, you do your job. And they kicked it back. The next question is, what is the District Attorney doing with this case?”

Geniella said he hasn’t seen the letter Eyster wrote to the Attorney General’s office, just the AG’s response to Eyster’s letter. “So all we know at this moment, whatever facts of the matter we have, is from the State Attorney General…but no specifics. There’s no mention of earlier involvement with the police chief’s behavior. There’s no charge. We simply have no information. The only information we have at this point is thanks to the response of the State Attorney General.”

You can read more of Mike Geniella’s work on MendoFever and at the Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Local News
Sarah Reith is the lead reporter for KZYX News. She joined the KZYX News team in 2017, and covers local politics, water, law enforcement and the arts in Mendocino County.