SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A disbarred Harvard University-trained attorney was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday after emotional testimony from his victims in a kidnapping so elaborate and bizarre that police in California initially dismissed it as a hoax.
In court, victim Denise Huskins described the two days of physical and psychological torture she endured after Matthew Muller snatched her from her San Francisco Bay Area home two years ago.
"You treated me like an object, a toy, an animal," she said, fighting back tears. "I still have nightmares every night. ... Sleep is not rest for me. It is a trigger."
Her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, who was bound and drugged in the couple's home during the kidnapping, said he "cannot and will not ever be the same."
U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley called the abduction a "heinous, atrocious, horrible crime" as he sentenced Muller, 39. He had faced up to life in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend 40 years in exchange for pleading guilty to kidnapping in September.
In court, Muller said he was "sick with shame" for the "pain and horror" he caused. He looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as he was sentenced.
Defense attorney Thomas Johnson argued for a 30-year sentence, saying his client has been diagnosed as manic and depressive and can be rehabilitated with proper treatment.
Muller used a remote-controlled drone to spy on Huskins and Quinn before he broke into their Vallejo home, tied up the couple and made them drink a sleep-inducing liquid, prosecutors said. They were blindfolded while Muller played a pre-recorded message that made it seem as if there was more than one kidnapper.
He put Huskins in the trunk of his car, drove her to his home in South Lake Tahoe and held her there for two days before eventually releasing her in her hometown of Huntington Beach.
He claimed in emails to a San Francisco reporter that Huskins was abducted by a team of elite criminals who were practicing their kidnapping tactics.
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After Huskins was released, Vallejo police called the kidnapping a hoax and erroneously likened it to the book and movie "Gone Girl," in which a woman goes missing and then lies about being kidnapped when she reappears.
Investigators dropped that theory after Muller was arrested in an attempted robbery at another San Francisco Bay Area home. Authorities said they found a cellphone that they traced to Muller and a subsequent search of a car and home turned up evidence, including a computer Muller stole from Quinn, linking the disbarred attorney to the abduction.
Vallejo police have since apologized. Huskins is suing the city and two police officers, accusing them of defamation and inflicting emotional distress.
Muller, a former Marine, was admitted to practice law in California in 2011, and his state bar profile says he attended Harvard Law School. He lost his law license in 2015 in an unrelated incident.