The California couple falsely accused by police of staging their own kidnapping in what was erroneously called the “Gone Girl” case has sued the Vallejo Police Department and the city, PEOPLE confirms.
Last March, Aaron Quinn called police claiming that his girlfriend Denise Huskins had been abducted and held for ransom. But after Huskins reappeared seemingly unharmed an hour before the ransom was due two days later, police called a press conference and declared the case a hoax perpetrated by Quinn and Huskins.
Ultimately, authorities came to believe the couple was telling the truth about the abduction, and last June, federal prosecutors charged Harvard-educated lawyer and former U.S. Marine Matthew Muller with the crime. Miller has pleaded not guilty.
The federal civil rights lawsuit, which was obtained by PEOPLE, accuses the police department of defamation, false arrest and false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks unspecified financial damages from the department.
“It is unprecedented and we can’t fathom a reason why they would rush to judgment and attack these victims of crime and portray them falsely as hoaxers,” attorney Kevin Clune tells PEOPLE. “It was more than just inattentive police work – they affirmatively went out and slandered these individuals and destroyed their lives and reputations.”
Adds Clune: “[The police] are the ones who went out and called them liars and that Denise was lying about her sexual assault and kidnapping.”
Clune says the couple, both of whom are physical therapists, have been forced to move and have suffered professional setbacks.
“It is not only in their personal life but it is also affecting their professional ability to advance their careers,” says Clune. “Aaron was told by one of his clients he didn’t want to be treated by Aaron because of what happened here. Denise was up for a very prestigious fellowship at Kaiser when this all went down. She ultimately had to end the fellowship in large part because of what the City of Vallejo had done by attacking her for coming to them in her time of need and letting them know she had been raped, and they said, ‘We don’t believe you.'”
Clune added, “For the rest of their lives these two individuals have essentially a tattoo on their forehead, which labels them as hoaxers.”
According to the lawsuit, when Quinn first reported the kidnapping, he was interrogated for 18 hours and accused of lying and killing Hutchins.
The lawsuit says Muller, the alleged kidnapper, called Quinn at least twice subsequently, but that cops “failed to monitor these lines of communication.”
Consequently, the suit states, cops “missed an opportunity to trace the phone to its South Lake Tahoe location. And while the officers were dithering, Huskins was still in the hands of the kidnapper, enduring the ultimate nightmare.”
Huskins, too, was initially dismissed by cops as well, the lawsuit states. Instead, she allegedly was offered a “proffer of agreement” for immunity and told that Quinn was cooperating with cops, and that “whoever accepted first would get immunity.”
“Given that Huskins had ‘inconveniently’ shown up alive, [police] maliciously transitioned to the hoax story to avoid criticism for its initial and utterly false accusations of murder,” the lawsuit states.
City of Vallejo spokesman Joanna Altman tells PEOPLE, “We don’t comment on matters of pending litigation therefore we don’t have a comment at this time.”