Vallejo kidnap victims’ defamation cases move forward

A U.S. District Court judge issued a split ruling last week in a defamation of character suit against the City of Vallejo and two of its police officers filed a year ago by two kidnapping victims.

Judge Troy L. Nunley of the Eastern District Court in Sacramento issued a ruling June 30 that, in part, denied and granted motions by Vallejo and the officers to dismiss some of the allegations made by Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn.

Hutchins and Quinn accused the City, public relations officer Lt. Kenny Park and Detective Matt Mustard of accusing Quinn of murdering Huskins while she was still in the custody of the kidnapper, Matthew Muller, who was eventually convicted, and later publicly accusing them of concocting the kidnapping story in March 2015.

Kenneth Nabity, a spokesman for the San Francisco law firm of Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP, attorneys for Quinn and Huskins, said Judge Nunley denied the attempt by the City and its two police officers’ to have the defamation and emotional stress claims dismissed.

Attorney James M. Wagstaffe said in a statement:

“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 from the law. … 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.”

In a 22-page ruling the judge ruled on six causes of actions.

Nunley granted Vallejo’s motion to dismiss Huskins’ allegation of stigma and defamation filed against Park but denied Vallejo’s motion to dismiss Quinn’s allegation of stigma and defamation against Park.

The court denied Vallejo’s motion to dismiss Huskins’ and Quinn’s state law defamation allegation against Park, Mustard and Vallejo.

The court granted Vallejo’s motion to dismiss Park from Quinn’s allegation of false arrest and false imprisonment.

Judge Nunley denied Vallejo’s motion to dismiss Quinn’s and Huskins’ allegation of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Park, Mustard and Vallejo.

The court also denied Vallejo’s motion to strike two other causes of action regarding malice.

The judge ruled Huskins and Quinn were not public figures and did not have to show Vallejo and the officers acted with actual malice, and that Vallejo and the officers did not cite any legal authority to show they must show actual malice.

According to the ruling:

“The Court will not analyze whether Defendants (Vallejo) acted with actual malice. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendants’ special motion to strike the second and fifth causes of action.”