Two kidnapping victims sued the Vallejo Police Department today for publicly accusing them of faking their kidnapping last year.
Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn are accusing the city of Vallejo, including police Detective Matthew Mustard and public information officer Lt. Kenny Park, of first accusing Quinn of murdering Huskins while she was still in the kidnapper’s custody and later publicly accusing them both of concocting the kidnapping story.
Despite the accusations by Vallejo police, the FBI solved the kidnapping based on a similar crime reported in Dublin and former U.S. Marine Matthew Muller was indicted in the case. He pleaded not guilty to the federal charges in October.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and seeks unspecified damages for defamation, unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and false imprisonment.
Through an “outrageous and wholly unfounded campaign of disparagement,” Vallejo police “created a destructive nationwide media frenzy” and “rubbed salt” in the victims’ “fresh wounds,” attorneys for Huskins and Quinn wrote in the complaint:
“Denise and Aaron deserve justice for Defendants’ inexcusable conduct.”
Huskins and Quinn were allegedly assaulted inside their Mare Island home as they slept on March 23, 2015, by an assailant who bound them both with zip ties, blindfolded them, drugged them and interrogated them in separate rooms.
The kidnapper took Huskins, still bound and blindfolded, in the trunk of his car and raped her twice before releasing her two days later, according to the suit.
When Quinn reported the crime to police, they interrogated him for 18 hours and accused him of murdering Huskins. During that time Quinn was given a lie detector test and denied access to an attorney, according to the suit.
They took his clothing and dressed him in jail clothes, took samples of his blood, put him in a locked interrogation room, and said he would be branded a “cold, calculating monster.”
Meanwhile, the suit said, Vallejo police failed to monitor Quinn’s phone as the kidnapper tried to communicate with him via text message and email.
Detectives overlooked evidence of forced entry at the home, including slit screens and holes drilled into the windows, according to the suit.
When Quinn’s family, who had been waiting at the station, finally secured him legal representation, he was released because the department had no evidence to charge him with a crime.
Huskins was taken in the trunk of a car to an unknown location, still bound and blindfolded with taped swim goggles. The kidnapper raped her twice and told her he was videotaping it, according to the suit.
During that time the kidnapper contacted the news media and sent a recording of Huskins. In response to that, Mustard implied to her mother that she was fabricating the kidnapping.
She was released March 25 at 10 a.m. near her parents’ home in Huntington Beach. She found a neighbor, who called police. Rather than immediately return to Vallejo, Huskins stayed with family, wanting to be somewhere safe after her ordeal and avoid the intense media interest in the case, according to the suit.
Mustard called Huskins’ cousin and accused Huskins of concocting the kidnapping, offering her an immunity deal for telling the truth. He told Huskins’ family back in Vallejo he would be investigating her for criminal activity, according to the suit.
Because of that, Huskins hired a defense attorney before returning to the Bay Area.
While she was en route that night, Park issued a news release and called a news conference publicly accusing Quinn and Huskins of orchestrating the kidnapping, calling the investigation a “wild goose chase” that plundered valuable resources from the community, and demanding that they offer the community an apology.
When Vallejo police interviewed Huskins they refused to give her a sexual assault examination. At one point, Mustard inquired if she had been sexually assaulted before and suggested she was trying to “re-live the excitement of that experience,” according to the suit.
Dublin police responded to a home invasion robbery less than three months later on June 5 that was eventually linked to Muller. A masked man broke into a couple’s home as they slept and tried to bind them, but they attacked him and chased him from the home.
During the course of their investigation, Dublin police learned of two other similar incidents in Mountain View and Palo Alto. In both incidents a masked man wearing all black bound, blindfolded and drugged sleeping victims and tried to rob them and rape them, according to the suit. Palo Alto police had even questioned Muller.
After Dublin police tracked Muller through a cellphone he left behind at the robbery scene, the FBI connected him to the Vallejo kidnapping through evidence found at Muller’s mother’s home in South Lake Tahoe. He was arrested June 8.
Vallejo police sent an apology letter to the victims in July, according to the suit.
Asked for comment Tuesday, Park, the police spokesman, said he had only first heard of the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon but referred questions to the city manager’s office:
“… as it is common practice not to comment on any pending litigation.”
The city attorney’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Quinn and Huskins’ attorneys wrote:
“To date, VPD has not provided any basis for any of its public statements, nor has it provided any evidence to justify its disastrous conclusions. … This campaign of character assassination was neither required nor part of any professional police activity.”