Former Poolee Files Legal Complaint Against Marine Corps over Recruiter’s Alleged Sexual Assault and Abuse

by Braxton Taylor

A former recruit filed a federal legal complaint against the Marine Corps on Thursday after her recruiter — who self-published a memoir detailing some of his own misconduct — allegedly sexually abused her.

Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Champagne, 36, is currently under investigation by the service after he wrote a now-retracted book detailing an inappropriate relationship with the recruit, actions that the alleged victim’s family previously described to Military.com as grooming, threatening and abusive. Champagne was assigned to a Fort Worth, Texas, recruiting station before being pulled from recruiting duty.

The alleged abuse against the then-17-year-old plaintiff occurred over the span of more than a year, according to the complaint, and included sexual assault, monitoring the recruit’s phone activity, plying her with alcohol, and manipulating her interactions with peers in an attempt to isolate her.

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The complaint, which was filed under a provision that allows individuals to sue the military, alleges that the service knew Champagne had a “history of sexual abuse” and was violating Marine Corps policy. The complaint was shared with Military.com on Thursday by Sanford Heisler Sharp, the law firm representing the alleged victim.

Military.com reported in November that Champagne was under investigation by the military. Later that month, it reported that he was still contacting the family despite them being told a military protective order was in place against him.

The complaint filed Thursday said that the alleged abuse was “entirely preventable” and that the Corps was negligent in its handling of Champagne. The history of sexual abuse that the complaint is referring to was allegedly against Champagne’s ex-wife, something the attorneys argued the Marine Corps knew about but ignored.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service was also unresponsive to the recruit’s concerns when she asked for help or forwarded evidence of Champagne’s alleged abuse — something she said she did more than a dozen times, the legal complaint alleges.

“My client was looking forward to spending her life serving her country as a Marine. But her faith in the Marines has been shattered because she was sexually abused by her recruiter — someone she thought she could trust,” said Christine Dunn, the lawyer representing the alleged victim known as “Jane Doe” in the complaint.

“The Marines had a duty to take reasonable measures to protect our client and recruits coming into its facility,” Dunn said in a released statement Thursday. “We believe that the Marines knew Gunnery Sgt. Champagne had a history of sexual assault but nonetheless allowed him to oversee teenaged recruits. Because of the Marines’ negligence, my client was harmed.”

Military.com contacted the Marine Corps and Champagne on Thursday, but did not immediately hear back by publication. Champagne has previously denied allegations against him. He was removed from his recruiting role in November, but remained on active duty at that time.

A spokesperson for NCIS would not comment on the complaint, but told Military.com on Thursday that the agency “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.”

Dunn told Military.com in an interview Thursday that the complaint, which was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, could take up to a year. She said that it is now the Marine Corps’ obligation to investigate the claims and that the allegations outlined in the complaint are “egregious.”

“Jane Doe” alleges that Champagne would pull her into his recruiting office alone while other recruiters looked on, to include an instance where she exited his private car in front of other noncommissioned officers. Doe was a “poolee” at the time, meaning that she was recruited but hadn’t started official training yet.

By January 2023, the alleged victim said that she became sick, was losing weight and not sleeping well “as Mr. Champagne strengthened his grip on my life.” She said that he visited the shop where she worked, would have “violent outbursts,” tracked her phone, prevented her from interacting with other recruits, and monitored how much she ate.

The complaint alleges that Champagne sexually assaulted the recruit in May.

“I told him I was uninterested in sex, tired of fighting, and wanted to go to bed alone,” the complaint said. “I fell asleep quickly, then woke up to find him on top of me, fully penetrating me. I yelled at him to stop and tried to push him away. He resisted, and I fought again. He eventually stopped and pulled away. I was extremely distraught that he had sexually violated me even after I said no.”

When the recruit attempted to cut Champagne out of her life, the complaint said that he texted her pictures of pill bottles, threatening to kill himself and told her she was the reason for his impending suicide. The complaint alleges that he continued to message her from burner Snapchat accounts, some of which Military.com has previously reported on — activity that attorneys described as stalking.

“He posed a danger, and the military knew that and they still allowed him to be in the presence of these teenage recruits,” Dunn said. The alleged abuse occurred in Texas.

The plaintiff’s family became aware of the alleged abusive relationship only when Champagne showed up to their house mid-summer, prompting her parents to call the police because they felt threatened.

According to the complaint, NCIS has started an investigation and enacted a military protective order against Champagne, which he then allegedly broke by contacting the poolee. Despite opening an investigation, she said that NCIS did not respond to her, even when she told them he was writing a book about her and after she called an agent assigned to her case several times.

“During this time, I was contacted by NCIS personnel who each time asked me if I felt ‘safe with my spouse,'” the complaint said. “I told each person that I was not married, nor did I live with Mr. Champagne, yet they continued to be confused and incorrect about the facts of my case.”

A spokesperson for Champagne’s unit would not answer questions about Champagne’s current status or whether he had been charged, but confirmed that the investigation into him is ongoing. The alleged victim is seeking $5 million in damages from the Marine Corps.

The Federal Torts Claims Act allows individuals to bring a complaint against the government for “torts,” or wrongful acts, committed by its employees. Before filing a complaint in court, the individual must file the complaint with the at-fault agency — in this case, the Marine Corps, Navy and Pentagon.

The agency must then investigate the claim and has six months to do so before an individual can file a lawsuit in federal court.

“We really believe that the Marines need to take responsibility for their actions here and to be held accountable when they knew that he was a danger and still allowed him to be on their premises,” Dunn said.

Related: A Marine Recruiter’s ‘Grooming’ of a Teenage Recruit Led to an Investigation. The Family Says He’s Still Terrorizing Them.

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