Sanford Heisler Sharp Files Federal Torts Claims Act Administrative Complaint Against the Marine Corps on Behalf of Teenaged Victim Who Was Sexually Abused by Marine Recruiter

DECATUR, Texas, Feb. 15, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP today filed a Federal Torts Claims Act (“FTCA”) administrative complaint against the United States Marine Corps, and its parent agencies the United States Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense (collectively “the Marines”) on behalf of Jane Doe, a teenaged recruit who was sexually abused by Marine recruiter Christopher Champagne.

Jane Doe is represented in the matter by Christine Dunn, Partner and Co-Chair of the Sexual Violence, Title IX and Victims’ Rights practice group, and Dacey Romberg, Associate at Sanford Heisler Sharp.

The Federal Torts Claims Act is a federal statute that permits individuals to bring legal claims against federal agencies for torts committed by their employees. Prior to filing an FTCA complaint in court, the individual must first file an administrative complaint with the agency at fault. The agency is then afforded six months to investigate the claim. After that, the individual may file a lawsuit against the agency in federal court.

In September 2022, at the age of 17, Jane Doe signed on to be a Marine “Poolee” – a term used to describe an applicant who defers basic training. Throughout her senior year of high school, she attended various Poolee training exercises at the Marine Recruiting Station in Decatur, Texas. Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Champagne was the Marine Recruiter assigned to oversee Jane Doe’s Poolee program. The administrative complaint alleges that Champagne regularly pulled Jane Doe into his office at the recruiting station, with the door closed, and sexually harassed her by engaging in inappropriate conversations and attempting to kiss her.

The complaint further alleges that as Champagne’s obsession with Jane Doe grew, he coerced her into a sexual relationship, despite the fact that she was a minor and almost twenty years his junior. As alleged in the complaint, the conduct escalated and Champagne sexually assaulted Jane Doe and began stalking her. Jane Doe and her family were so frightened by Champagne’s conduct that they reported him to the Marines and sought and obtained a protection order. The complaint alleges that the Marines failed to adequately enforce the protection order and, as a result, Champagne continued to contact Jane Doe. Champagne went so far as to write a tell-all book about his sexual relationship with Jane Doe that he posted on the internet.

In addition, the complaint alleges that the Marines were aware that Champagne was a danger because his wife had previously reported that he sexually assaulted her. The complaint alleges that the Marines were negligent because, despite being on notice that Champagne posed a danger, they allowed him to serve as a recruiter in charge of teenaged applicants. The administrative complaint further alleges that the Marine Corps is liable under the FTCA because it breached its duty to keep the recruiting station safe for recruits.

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

About Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP
Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP is a national public interest class-action litigation law firm with offices in Baltimore, New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Diego, and Nashville. Sanford Heisler Sharp focuses on employment discrimination, Title IX, wage and hour, whistleblower, criminal/sexual violence, and financial services matters. The firm has recovered over $1 billion for its clients through many verdicts and settlements. The National Law Journal recognized Sanford Heisler Sharp as 2021 Employment Rights Firm of the Year and 2021 Human Rights Firm of the Year.

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If you experienced sexual abuse and are seeking counsel, please call 202-221-3152 or email Attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp would like to have the opportunity to help you.

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