SACRAMENTO -- Former attorney Matthew Muller pled guilty to kidnapping Denise Huskins in a California court last month, but a mental health diagnosis emerged during court proceedings.

Mental health becomes factor in kidnapping case
Mental health becomes factor in kidnapping case | Shutterstock

Huskins was taken from a home on Mare Island in Vallejo on March 23, 2015, while with her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn. According to court documents, Muller used a modified water pistol to simulate a lighted firearm. He also had an electric stun gun.

In addition to using those scare tactics, he also used zip ties, blacked out goggles, made each victim drink a liquid soporific and made the victims listen to a recorded message warning against resistance. Muller then put Huskins in the trunk of a stolen Ford Mustang and took her to South Lake Tahoe. Muller demanded a ransom of $17,000 from Quinn for Huskins safe return.

Claiming he was representing a group of kidnappers, Muller sent a message from Quinn’s account to a reporter saying Huskins would be returned and he would inform the reporter of her location. Huskins was dropped off in Huntington Beach on March 25, 2015. According to the court documents, that morning, “Vallejo Police Department's public information officer gave a press statement that the whole affair had not been an authentic kidnapping.”

It has since been discovered Muller has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Givelle Lamano, an Oakland DUI and criminal defense attorney, has worked on kidnapping cases in the past.

“Mental health is prominent in most violent and serious crimes,” Lamano told the Northern California Record.

Muller is currently facing a possible $250,000 fine and a sentencing of life in prison. However, Lamano believes in cases like this, the approach of restorative justice should be taken into account.

According to restorativejustice.org, an organization that works to promote restorative justice in criminal justice systems, “restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet, although other approaches are available when that is impossible. This can lead to the transformation of people, relationships and communities.”

“Harsh sentencing doesn’t always help,” Lamano said. “Restorative justice helps make the victim whole by giving them insight into what the aggressor is going through.” 

Lamano also said restorative justice can help reform aggressors by helping them see why they committed the crime that they did. 

“Given how overpopulated our prison community is in the U.S. says a lot about how we treat our citizens with mental health issues,” Lamano said. “We should ask how to prevent something like this from happening again instead of sweeping it under the rug.”

In addition to the case against Muller, Huskins and Quinn have also opened a case against the city of Vallejo for their treatment of the investigation. 

“The Vallejo Police Department and its officers waged a vicious and shocking attack on two victims of a terrifying home invasion, kidnapping and rape,” according to court documents.

They are suing the city of Vallejo for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with right to legal counsel, negligence, injury to reputation and property loss. 

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City of Vallejo
555 Santa Clara Street
Vallejo, CA 94590

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