A Vallejo woman and her boyfriend claim their civil rights were violated when Vallejo police went after the couple and called her kidnapping a hoax instead of helping them, according to a federal lawsuit.
Denise Huskins and her boyfriend Aaron Quinn say the Vallejo Police Department and the city destroyed their reputations “through an outrageous and wholly unfounded campaign of disparagement,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.
They were forced to move out of town, according to the lawsuit.
“The Vallejo police attacked Denise and Aaron when they were most vulnerable,” the couple’s attorney Kevin Clune said in a statement. “By taking the all-too-common approach of blaming the victim, Vallejo made an already tragic situation infinitely worse. Vallejo must be held accountable for its egregious misconduct.”
The Police Department and city did not respond to requests for comments.
Nearly a year ago, Huskins was kidnapped from the couple’s home in Vallejo. But instead of looking for Huskins’ kidnappers, Vallejo police focused their investigation on Quinn and his actions, according to the lawsuit.
Quinn told police that Huskins had been “forcibly taken” from the home sometime between midnight and 5 a.m. on March 23. Quinn said that he was bound and drugged, that his eyes were covered with goggles and that headphones playing prerecorded instructions were placed over his ears.
Quinn told police he later awoke to find Huskins, his belongings and his car missing. A voicemail message demanding two payments of $8,500 was left behind, according an unsealed federal affidavit by the FBI. He immediately called police.
As an investigation of Huskins’ disappearance was launched, Quinn voluntarily provided blood samples to police. He also provided passwords so that authorities could double-check his email activity.
Two days later, Huskins was dropped off at her family’s home in Huntington Beach. Authorities arranged a flight for Huskins to Northern California to interview her.
But when she never got on the plane, police grew suspicious and said the kidnapping appeared to be an “orchestrated event,” a “wild goose chase” and a waste of police resources.
The couple’s attorneys insisted the kidnapping was real.
Four months later, the FBI announced that they had found Huskins’ kidnapper -- Matthew Muller, a Harvard-educated former attorney.
The FBI met with local law enforcement and determined there were similarities between Huskins’ kidnapping and a home invasion robbery on June 5 in Dublin, Calif.
“While [Vallejo Police Department] focused on unsubstantiated theories and ignored evidence, Huskins endured unimaginable terror and a violent assault,” according to the lawsuit.
Huskins and Quinn said the department has yet to provide evidence to justify why Huskins’ kidnapping was believed to be a ruse.
The lawsuit specifically names two Vallejo police investigators, Lt. Kenny Park, who called the kidnapping a hoax, and Det. Mathew Mustard, who interrogated Quinn.
The lawsuit alleges the Police Department’s investigation was misguided, and “instead of focusing on finding the true perpetrator … and protecting the community from a violent predator, defendants attacked plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ families, created a destructive nationwide media frenzy through public statements accusing plaintiffs of faking Denise’s kidnapping and rape and rubbed salt in plaintiffs’ fresh wounds in the days and weeks following the attacks.”
The couple is seeking a monetary judgment for the distress they suffered, according to the lawsuit.
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