Couple takes action after bizarre kidnapping case

Denise Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, listen as their attorneys speak at a news conference July 13, 2015, in Vallejo, Calif.

Mike Jory/Vallejo Times-Herald via AP

SAN FRANCISCO -- 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.

Calls to police and the city attorney's office were not immediately returned. The city has apologized to Huskins and Quinn.

"They want justice, and they do want to make sure that something like this cannot happen to anyone else," the couple's attorney, Kevin Clune, told CBS San Francisco station KPIX-TV.

Clune said the lawsuit was the couple's first step toward getting their lives back.

"The only crazy part about this story is the way the police acted," Clune told CBS San Francisco. "There's virtually no precedent that we know of for police, upon having someone just get out of claiming they were kidnapped and raped, to immediately go on camera on national TV and just completely ruin their reputations and turn their lives upside down."

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 Matthew Muller - a disbarred Harvard University-trained attorney - with kidnapping Huskins from her Vallejo home.

Muller has pleaded not guilty.

Huskins' boyfriend, Aaron 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.