Crime - Sacto 911

Can Vallejo kidnap couple sue city over their treatment? A judge says yes

A federal judge has rejected efforts by Vallejo officials to toss out a lawsuit filed by the couple victimized in an outlandish 2015 kidnap case that generated worldwide headlines likening it to the novel and film “Gone Girl.”

In a 22-page order filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley refused to dismiss claims by Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn that they had suffered emotional distress and other hardships because of declarations by Vallejo police that the kidnapping was a hoax.

The couple sued the city in 2016 after the arrest of former Orangevale resident Matthew Muller, who had broken into their home, tied and drugged them, then abducted Huskins and sexually assaulted her. Muller, a Harvard-trained lawyer, later released Huskins and was arrested after being linked to another Bay Area home invasion.

Muller pleaded guilty to kidnapping and was sentenced in a wrenching, emotional hearing in March to a 40-year prison sentence.

Despite Muller’s sentence, Quinn and Huskins have pursued their lawsuit against Vallejo officials, whom they blame for not taking the case seriously when Quinn first reported it.

“Denise and Aaron are thrilled that the court has agreed that the Vallejo Police Department’s malicious and public attacks against them are not immune under the law,” one of the couple’s attorneys, James Wagstaffe, said in a statement. “Denise and Aaron look forward to holding the Vallejo Police Department accountable for its shocking offensive against two victims of a horrific crime, and working to make sure that other victims are not dismissed and degraded like they were.”

Vallejo attorney Wendy Motooka did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The judge’s order allows the lawsuit to proceed against the city after months of inaction. No settlement talks have taken place in the case, and the last hearing in it was held in April, when a judge ordered the removal of Huskins’ personal cellphone number from court documents Vallejo attorneys had filed.

Huskins and Quinn argue in court papers that Vallejo officials spent more time destroying their reputations in the media than pursuing the possibility that Huskins actually had been kidnapped. The lawsuit also claims that Quinn, who reported the abduction after waking from being drugged by Muller, was initially treated as a suspect.

Huskins and Quinn, who confronted Muller in court with lengthy statements, have subsequently become engaged.

Nunley gave the parties until the end of July to file a status report with the court on where the case now stands.

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam

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