Calif. Woman Falsely Accused of Faking Her Abduction Could Be Cross-Examined by Kidnapper: 'Amazingly Courageous'
Denise Huskins, who was abducted in California in 2015, has been subpoenaed and will possibly have to testify at a hearing for Matthew Muller, her attorney says
The lawyer for Denise Huskins, the California woman whose 2015 kidnapping and sexual assault were originally dismissed as a hoax by investigators, tells PEOPLE his client has been subpoenaed by prosecutors to testify next week at the preliminary hearing for her abductor.
“It’s horrible,” Doug Rappaport says about the possibility that Huskins may be cross-examined by Matthew Muller at the hearing, scheduled for Tuesday.
Muller, who could not be reached for comment, is representing himself.
“So, consequently, he can confront and cross-examine his accusers; he’s exercising his constitutional rights,” Rappaport tells PEOPLE two days after his client and her fiancé, Aaron Quinn, were issued subpoenas to appear in a Solano County court.
Rappaport says it is “not just a possibility” that Huskins will be cross-examined by Muller but “highly probable.”
The Solano County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment, but prosecutor Sharon Henry told local TV station KGO that they “are preparing as if the victims will be testifying.”
Though prosecutors issued the subpoenas, it remains unclear why they believe Huskins may be needed to testify at a preliminary hearing, which is held to determine if there is probable cause — or reasonable suspicion — for a trial.
Rappaport says the subpoenas were unexpected.
“Typically, the prosecution will call on police officers to testify at preliminary hearings so they can relate what the alleged victims told them,” he explains. Such hearsay testimony is permissible under state law.
Rappaport says the prosecution could move to spare Huskins and Quinn from having to take the stand next week, but he doesn’t anticipate that will happen.
Dan Russo, an attorney for Quinn, told the San Francisco Chronicle the experience will be “a nightmare,” but the couple is unbowed.
“The truth is they are amazingly courageous people,” Russo said. “What they are doing is giving hope to other victims, saying, ‘I can stand up and fight back.’ ”
Authorities have said Muller broke into the Vallejo home Huskins shared with Quinn, her then-boyfriend, in March 2015. Huskins and Quinn are now engaged, with their wedding set for Sept. 29.
Quinn called Vallejo police saying that Huskins had been kidnapped and that the abductors had demanded thousands of dollars in ransom.
However, after Huskins reappeared two days later in her hometown of Huntington Beach soon before the ransom was due, Vallejo police called a news conference and declared her abduction a fabrication.
The case became erroneously known as the “Gone Girl” kidnapping, referring to the popular book and 2014 movie about a phony disappearance.
But that June authorities arrested Muller, a Harvard-educated lawyer and former U.S. Marine.
They were led to him in part because of his suspected role in a similar home invasion and because FBI agents found several incriminating items in his vehicle, including Quinn’s computer and water goggles covered with tape and a long blond strand of hair attached.
Muller eventually admitted to being the lone perpetrator of the kidnapping.
According to authorities, he had sent a series of bizarre, rambling letters when police publicly dismissed Huskins’ account of her kidnapping.
Among the missives was a claim that the writer was part of an Ocean’s Eleven-style group of “gentleman criminals.”
Muller pleaded guilty in 2016 to a federal charge of kidnapping and is serving a 40-year sentence. However he is awaiting trial on state charges of burglary, false imprisonment, two counts of forcible rape, kidnapping for ransom and robbery. He has pleaded not guilty.
Earlier this year, Huskins and Quinn reached a tentative settlement with the city of Vallejo for $2.5 million.
Muller recently spoke from prison with KNTV and said he would consider pleading guilty to the charges he still faces — but he had a demand.
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“If they were to make a substantial donation to the Innocence Project [a nonprofit working to freely the wrongfully convicted], I could not put my own fate above that,” Muller said during a 30-minute interview from behind bars, a stark change from the contrite tone he struck at his federal sentencing.
According to Rappaport, Muller is simply still trying to control the situation, wielding the little power he still has.
“It’s just a ransom demand, just like what he tried to do before,” Rappaport says. “He is trying to manipulate the system. It’s tantamount to a ransom request. They never paid it the first time, and they are not paying it this time.”