Police who dismissed a California woman's kidnapping as a hoax akin to the Hollywood movie, "Gone Girl,'' damaged her and her boyfriend's reputations and forced them to move, a lawsuit filed Tuesday claims.
The suit by Denise Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, accuses Vallejo police of defamation and infliction of emotional distress and seeks unspecified damages. It names the city of Vallejo and two police officers as defendants.
According to a statement by the couple’s attorney Kevin Clune, a partner with Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP, Huskins and Quinn were "bound, drugged and terrorized" by Matthew Muller, who broke into their home last March as they slept. He then kidnapped Huskins and raped her, Clune alleged.
During the ordeal, the "terrified couple" sought help from Vallejo police, who discredited and publicly shamed them, Clune continued.
"The Vallejo police attacked Denise and Aaron when they were most vulnerable," Clune said. "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."
Calls to police and the city attorney's office were not immediately returned. The city has apologized to Huskins and Quinn.
Police waged a "campaign of disparagement'' against Huskins and Quinn following Huskins' abduction last March and created a media frenzy with their "Gone Girl'' theory, according to the lawsuit.
"News outlets across the world likened Huskins to the lead character in the film "Gone Girl,'' and placed Huskins's picture next to that of the lead character, including one depicting the character naked and covered in blood,'' the lawsuit says.
Federal prosecutors subsequently charged Muller — a disbarred Harvard University-trained attorney — with kidnapping Huskins from her Vallejo home.
Quinn reported that kidnappers broke into the couple's home, abducted Huskins and demanded money.
Huskins turned up safe two days later in her hometown of Huntington Beach, where she says she was dropped off. She showed up hours before the ransom was due.
After Huskins reappeared, Vallejo police said at a news conference the kidnapping was a hoax.
Police held and interrogated Quinn as if he had "already been convicted of murdering Huskins'' after he reported the abduction instead of pursuing Huskins' kidnapper, according to the lawsuit.
While they were questioning Quinn, they put his phone in airplane mode and did not receive calls from Huskins' abductor, the lawsuit says.
Muller was arrested in South Lake Tahoe in connection with an attempted robbery in Dublin, California, in June. Investigators say they found evidence that linked him to Huskins' abduction.
NBC Bay Area's Rhea Mahbubani contributed to this report.