ACCEPTING NO BLAME: NOEL LASHES OUT

February 05, 2001 12:00 am

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Controversial attorney Robert Noel lashed out at authorities yesterday and blamed others for the fatal mauling of a San Francisco woman.

Appearing at a press conference at the entrance of Pelican Bay State Prison where his adopted son is an inmate, Noel said attempts to prosecute him for the mauling death are unfounded.

My examination of the facts shows there will be no criminal charges. (San Francisco District Attorney Terence) Hallinan is not a reasonable prosecutor and is a disgrace to the office, Noel said.

Hallinan is investigating the possibility of charging Noel and wife Marjorie Knoller with criminal negligence in the incident. The couple owned the fighting dogs which killed Diane Whipple last Friday. Knoller was walking the dogs at the time of the attack.

In a surprising 18-page letter to Hallinan earlier this week, Noel blamed the victim and even went so far as to say she might have been wearing perfume which inflamed the dog. He defended his version of events yesterday.

Only after Hallinan became more and more unprofessional, giving vent to the wildest speculations, did we decide to speak out, Noel said.

Whipple lived in the same Pacific Heights apartment building in San Francisco as Noel and his wife Marjorie Knoller. This week Knoller legally changed her name to Kneeler for an unknown reason.

According to Noel, on Jan. 26, Kneeler told the San Francisco Police Department she was walking her mastiff-like Canary Island dog down the hallway when they encountered Whipple standing in her apartment doorway.

Noel, who was not on the scene of the attack, said the dog Bane took off down the hall dragging Kneeler behind him. Noel said Whipple stood in the doorway of her apartment for one minute and 15 seconds watching things develop.

When asked if he thought Whipple may be at fault for the attack, Noel said Whipple could have avoided it.

My understanding of the law is that a person should take reasonable actions to avoid dangerous situations, he said.

All she had to do was close the door, but, for whatever reason, came back into the hall. I dont think thats reasonable behavior, Noel added.

So far, Noel claims his dog Bane has never bitten anyone before this incident, nor has the dog posed a danger to others. In addition, Noel claimed even though Bane was dragging Kneeler down the hall, the dog made no aggressive moves toward Whipple.

Despite Noels contention that the dog was not aggressive, Noel did say his wife pushed Whipple away and said Kneeler even attempted to cover Whipple with her own body, saying Dont move, he is trying to protect me.

Noel said in a letter to the San Francisco District Attorneys office: Up to that point there were no bleeding wounds on Ms. Whipple and Bane had not made any contact with her. As Marjorie began backing Bane away, Ms. Whipple, rather than stay still or moving back to her apartment, continued to crawl toward Marjorie and Bane.

At that point in the scenario, Noel said his wife again covered Whipple with her body and then Whipple forcibly struck Kneeler in the right eye.

It was after the punch that Noel claims the dog went for Whipples throat and killed her.

Noel and Kneeler have owned Bane and a female Canary Island Dog named Hera for three months.

Previously, Pelican Bay inmate Paul John Schneider, whose nickname is Cornfed, purchased the two dogs from his concrete cell of 15 years. Noel, an attorney who has represented several Pelican Bay correctional officers and inmates in local courts said he and Kneeler have known Schneider for more than three years.

Noel and his wife learned of the dogs from Schneider who was paying to have Bane and Hera kennelled in Hayfork, Calif. as part of a breeding program.

When veterinarians found heart murmurs and joint problems in both the dogs, they were eliminated from the breeding program and were set to be euthanized, according to Noel.

The impending death of the dogs is what moved Noel to rescue and adopt them, he said.

Another surprising twist to the case is the adoption of 38-year-old Schneider. The adoption became final Monday.

Over the period of three years, we developed a personal and professional relationship with him...Given the fact that Ms. Kneeler and I had no children and we thought he was a worthy person, we adopted him, Noel said.

Schneider is currently serving a life sentence for attempted murder and reportedly has ties to white supremacist groups.

The connection between Noel, Schneider and the dogs is under investigation.

Schneider and fellow inmate Dale Bretches were found to have organized a dog fighting ring and the dogs that attacked the San Francisco woman were part of a group of dogs raised for fighting contests and guarding methamphetamine labs, according to state prison officials.