A decorated, high-tenured Marine colonel ended up behind bars last fall after being convicted of sexually abusing a six-year-old girl. The child's family is now pursuing a lawsuit against the Marine Corps, saying senior leaders failed to hold the officer accountable after he was booted from a previous posting in Australia just 10 days in for crass and drunken behavior.
Adrian Perry, mother of the child abused by Col. Daniel Wilson, has filed tort claims totaling $25 million against the Corps, saying the pain and suffering of her child and two other daughters she says were abused by Wilson were preventable, had he been investigated previously.
The Marine Corps has six months to respond to the claims with an assessment of its own liability before lawsuit proceedings move forward.
A Marine spokesman, Maj. Brian Block, said the service could not comment on ongoing litigation.
The existence of the legal action was first reported by The Australian earlier this month.
Don Christensen, a retired Air Force prosecutor and president of the organization Protect Our Defenders, assisted Perry in filing the tort claims. He said the action was a way of getting the attention of the Marine Corps and potentially preventing future abuse.
Military.com broke the news last December that Lt. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force in the Pacific, was faulted by the Inspector General of the Marine Corps for failing to initiate an investigation against Wilson and report his misconduct to top leadership after Wilson's tenure in Australia came to an abrupt end.
An official told Military.com that it was likely the IG report spelled the end of Nicholson's distinguished military career. But some believe that's not consequence enough for the senior officer's failure to act.
"[Nicholson has] paid absolutely no consequences, admitted no guilt for what he's done," Christensen said. "For me, that's particularly telling how callous [the Marine Corps has] been treating this."
Court testimony in Wilson's court-martial for child sexual abuse at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, revealed that Wilson, previously sent to Darwin, Australia, in February 2016 as a liaison officer, had almost immediately been flagged as a problem. An investigation into his behavior in Australia was launched only after he had been accused of sexual assault months later.
Wilson told the wife of the colonel he was replacing in Darwin that "her thighs were sore from having sex with her husband," and asked another Marine officer to send him racy pictures of his wife. Wilson would later show the photo he obtained to his Australian counterpart, Cmdr. Greg Mapson, who ultimately complained to Wilson's higher-ups about him.
During the few days Wilson spent in Australia, he also sent an email from a female civilian employee's account, asking her supervisor on a date, and made another female officer uncomfortable by sending her coarse and personal text messages.
An individual who was present in Australia when Wilson was there and was directly involved with the later investigation into his actions told Military.com that Wilson had been described as a "predator" by an Australian officer, just days after his arrival.
It took the Marine Corps just three days to put Wilson on a plane out of Australia, cutting short what was to be a six-month tour. But follow-on actions ended there. Nicholson would tell investigators that Wilson had just been "stupid" and that he found credible Wilson's explanation that the complaints were the result of personality conflicts.
"If your actions are egregious enough to get pulled out of a foreign country, you would think we would do something about it," said the individual close to the investigation, who asked not to be identified because of his position. "I'd want to know, what else did we not know?"
Wilson would next move to a post within II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune. He'd become close to the Perrys over a two-week period in July 2016 that culminated in allegations he molested their daughters.
Wilson would be sentenced in September 2017 to five-and-a-half years of confinement for molesting one of the girls, though he was acquitted on charges of abusing the other children and sexually assaulting an adult woman in a separate alleged incident in 2016.
Adrian Perry told Military.com her decision to pursue tort action against the Marine Corps was arrived at over much prayer and consideration.
"It disgusts me to think that my children would ever have to pay for mental health care because of what Wilson did to them. That's unacceptable," she said. "To me, this is just one more step in the fight toward making sure my children are taken care of. This is not out of vengeance. This is out of protection for my children, because this is something extremely unacceptable and wrong that occurred."
Perry said she has never been contacted by Marine leaders about Wilson following his conviction. She wants to make sure, she said, that what happened in Darwin can't unfold again within the service.
"I lose sleep over the Australia stuff," she said. "Because I feel like this is a predator that could have been caught, that could have been stopped."