Woman files $5M claim against Corps for sex abuse by Marine recruiter

by Vern Evans

A woman who says a Marine Corps recruiter sexually abused her when she was a 17-year-old Marine hopeful has brought a legal claim against the military for failing to prevent the alleged abuse.

The now-18-year-old woman, identified only by the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleged in a complaint filed Feb. 15 against the military that Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Champagne coerced her into a sexual relationship while she was preparing to go to boot camp.

Champagne later wrote a self-published memoir about having had a sexual relationship with a prospective recruit, known as a poolee in Marine Corps parlance, Military.com reported. The book is listed on Amazon as being out of print.

Doe alleged the Marine Corps knew Champagne’s ex-wife had filed complaints against him for abuse and sexual assault and yet allowed the gunnery sergeant to be in a position of power over young applicants at a Texas recruiting station. Her legal claim is against the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy and the Defense Department.

Doe is seeking $5 million from the military. Her complaint doesn’t constitute legal action against Champagne, but Dunn said her client is “leaving all avenues open.”

“She was sexually abused and stalked and frightened, and the individual who did it is at fault here, but also the Marines are at fault here for allowing this person to be in a position to harm her,” Christine Dunn, an attorney at Sanford Heisler Sharp who is representing Doe, told Marine Corps Times on Feb. 15.

Champagne maintained Doe’s claims about him were false.

He wrote in a text message to Marine Corps Times on Tuesday that Doe’s dishonesty was “well documented.”

“Professionals are doing a thorough investigation to discover facts and the truth regarding these retaliatory false allegations will be revealed,” he wrote.

Negligence allegations

The complaint said the Marine Corps knew Champagne’s ex-wife had made complaints of sexual assault and abuse against him, and nevertheless let him be a recruiter.

Marine Corps Times reached out to his ex-wife for comment and did not get a response by time of publication.

Doe, then 17, met Champagne after her family moved to Texas at the end of summer 2022, according to the complaint. At the first workout for poolees that Doe attended at his recruiting station, Doe alleged, Champagne pulled her into his office alone and shut the door — a violation of Defense Department policy that other recruiters “should have seen.”

Over the ensuing months, Champagne subjected her to sexual comments and ultimately coerced her into a sexual relationship, Doe alleged. The recruiter sexually assaulted her in May 2023, she said in the complaint.

The age of consent in Texas is 17, but military rules ban recruiters from having sexual contact with poolees. Champagne was 36 in November 2023, according to media reports.

“Because the Marines had knowledge that Mr. Champagne had a history of sexual abuse and was violating the rules meant to avoid inappropriate relationships with recruits, they knew or should have known that his presence at the recruiting facility posed an unreasonable risk to me,” Doe wrote in the complaint.

After Doe ended their relationship in June 2023, Champagne harassed and stalked her, the former poolee alleged. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service had issued a protection order that barred Champagne from contacting Doe, but it failed to enforce that order, she alleged.

Meanwhile, Champagne wrote and published a tell-all book about his relationship with a poolee, which he billed as a true story with names and other details changed, according to Military.com.

The gunnery sergeant pushed back in general terms on the allegations in the complaint.

He told Marine Corps Times on Tuesday, “The evidence and facts will speak for themselves when it is deemed appropriate to release that information.”

He said he was “the third person [Doe] has accused across two states.”

Dunn, Doe’s attorney, said in a statement to Marine Corps Times later on Tuesday, “We are aware of these prior instances that occurred when she was very young, but they have no bearing on the allegations in this case.”

“The facts here are very strong and will establish that Gunnery Sgt. Champagne engaged in sexually abusive conduct of a minor and that the Marine Corps was negligent in allowing him to serve as a recruiter,” Dunn added.

Doe’s complaint was filed under the Federal Torts Claims Act, which allows people to bring claims against federal agencies for wrongful acts allegedly committed by their employees.

The Marine Corps has six months to investigate the claim, according to a news release Feb. 15 from Sanford Heisler Sharp.

The Marine Corps could then reach a settlement with Doe, or it could deny her claim, at which point Doe would be allowed to file a lawsuit against the service in federal court, Dunn said.

“She was looking forward to a career in the Marines and serving her county,” Dunn said of her client. “This has really derailed her, what this man did to her and the Marines’ negligence in allowing this to happen.”

The Marine Corps on Feb. 16 declined to comment on the complaint or provide information about Champagne’s current role, citing an ongoing investigation, and referred Marine Corps Times to NCIS.

Nikki Fleming, a spokeswoman for NCIS, said in a statement Feb. 15, “NCIS takes allegations of sexual assault very seriously and is conducting a thorough investigation.

“Out of respect for the investigative process, NCIS will not comment further while the investigation remains ongoing.”

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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