A former Marine and Harvard-educated lawyer pleaded not guilty in federal court in Sacramento Monday to a charge of kidnapping a physical therapist from Vallejo in March.
Defense attorney Thomas Johnson entered the plea on behalf of Matthew Muller, 38, at Muller’s arraignment on an indictment issued Thursday by a federal grand jury, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lauren Horwood.
Muller, of Orangevale in Sacramento County, is accused of abducting Denise Huskins, 30, from her Mare Island home on March 23 and holding her captive for two days before dropping her off near her mother’s house in Huntington Beach.
Last week’s indictment replaced a criminal complaint filed by U.S. prosecutors in federal court in Sacramento on June 29.
U.S. Magistrate Kendall Newman Monday ordered Muller to return to court on Nov. 5 for a status conference before U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley, the trial judge assigned to the case, Horwood said.
The kidnapping charge carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison if Muller is convicted.
Muller has been in custody since his arrest at his mother’s home in South Lake Tahoe on June 8 on state charges of a separate invasion and attempted robbery of a Dublin residence on June 5.
Last month, he pleaded no contest and was convicted in Alameda County Superior Court of attempted robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon in the Dublin case.
A cell phone Muller allegedly left behind while fleeing the Dublin residence led to alleged evidence that caused federal and state authorities to charge him in both crimes.
Muller was brought to court Monday with both his hands and feet shackled, as was also the case at a previous appearance last month.
Johnson asked Newman to reconsider whether full shackling was needed, but the magistrate ordered the shackling to continue because of Muller’s conviction in the Dublin case, Horwood said.
Muller served in the Marines from 1995 to 1998 and later graduated from Harvard Law School. He worked for a time as an immigration attorney but was disbarred earlier this year.
He told Alameda County sheriff’s detectives when he was arrested in June that he suffered from problems with psychosis and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008, according to an FBI affidavit.
Vallejo police initially said they believed the account of the kidnapping by Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, was a hoax.
After Muller was charged in the federal criminal complaint, Police Chief Andrew Bidou sent the couple a letter of apology in July.
In September, Huskins and Quinn filed a claim of reputation damage and emotional distress against the Vallejo Police Department, in a possible precursor to a civil lawsuit.