U.S. News

California couple in kidnapping first deemed hoax file lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A San Francisco-area couple who were victimized in a kidnapping that was deemed to be a hoax by local police filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging that police destroyed their reputations.

Huntington Beach police Crime Scene Investigator vehicle is seen at the family home of Denise Huskins in Huntington Beach, California March 25, 2015. Denise Huskins, 30, was reported to have been forcibly taken from her boyfriend's home in the East Bay city of Vallejo on Monday, and her boyfriend told authorities there had been a demand for ransom, police said on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Huskins turned up in the Orange County coastal town of Huntington Beach, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles, but the circumstances of her reappearance remained murky, said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr - RTR4UVEM

Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn filed the suit in U.S. District Court for Eastern California, in Sacramento, against the city of Vallejo and police officers, including department spokesman Lieutenant Kenny Park, who referred to the kidnapping last March as a “wild goose chase.”

The 30-page complaint said that instead of investigating the crime, police “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.”

Calls to the Vallejo Police Department and Vallejo City Attorney’s Office for comment on the lawsuit were not immediately returned.

Quinn and Huskins are both physical therapists who lived together in Vallejo, a city some 35 miles north of San Francisco, when their home was broken into early on March 23, 2015.

The complaint says Huskins and Quinn were blindfolded, drugged and bound, and Quinn was told that if he did not truthfully provide his financial information or if he went to law enforcement, Huskins would be harmed. Huskins was abducted, and when Quinn went to police, the complaint said, authorities treated him like a suspect and interrogated him for hours.

Huskins, meanwhile, was forced into the trunk of a car and driven to a home where she was raped twice while blindfolded and held for ransom. She was told by her rapist that the acts were filmed and would be used against her if she went to police, according to the complaint.

“While (the Vallejo Police Department) focused on unsubstantiated theories and ignored evidence, Huskins endured unimaginable terror and a violent assault,” the complaint said.

Two days after her abduction, Huskins was released in the Southern California city of Huntington Beach. That evening, the Vallejo Police Department released a statement saying, “This event appears to be an orchestrated event and not a kidnapping.”

Park, the police lieutenant, at a news conference that night said Huskins and Quinn owed the city an apology for having them waste resources on a “wild goose chase.”

Last June, a man named Matthew Muller was charged in the kidnapping. According to the complaint, Muller was suspected in at least three other home invasions in the Bay Area similar to Huskins’ around that time.

Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler