Army colonel accused of sexual assault demoted to captain, retired Wednesday
Stars and Stripes June 2, 2023
An Army colonel with 27 years in the service retired Wednesday as a captain, more than two years after his family’s former nanny accused him of sexual assault and he was fired from his command.
Christopher Warner, 49, was criminally investigated in 2020 when his family’s former live-in nanny accused him of raping her in 2007. The Army removed Warner as the hospital commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in October 2020 and the psychiatrist has spent the past 2½ years moving through the Army’s nonjudicial punishment system.
Warner, who served as a medical corps officer and board-certified psychiatrist from May 1996 to May 2023, will retire as a captain because it is the last rank at which the service said he served satisfactorily, said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Hewitt, an Army spokesman.
"A ‘satisfactory’ determination of service at a particular grade has pay implications for retiring officers above the grade of warrant officer who have been the subject of adverse information since their last promotion,” he said.
Sexual assaults in the armed forces have been a serious problem for several years as reports of incidents have risen and various military efforts to counter the upward trend have not tackled the crisis. Lawmakers have repeatedly complained about the rising numbers of assaults and have asked the Pentagon to get to the bottom of it.
Warner faced his charges as Congress forced major changes in the way that the military decides when to prosecute sexual assault and sexual harassment in court. A new law in late 2021 required the military to establish special prosecutors offices by December to determine whether certain crimes, including sexual assault, should be sent to a court-martial or returned to a commander for possible nonjudicial punishment. That decision has previously been left to the commander.
The change is one of many coming from an Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, which was established by the Defense Department in early 2021. Proponents of the reforms from the commission believe they will help the military get control of sexual assault among the ranks.
Warner, who is also a board-certified family medicine doctor and last served as a special projects officer with the Army Surgeon General’s Office in Falls Church, Va., did not face a court-martial and was not convicted of a crime.
His drop in rank will impact the pay and benefits that he receives for the remainder of his life. His monthly retirement pay will decrease by roughly $3,000, according to military pay charts. However, Warner, who served combat deployments in Afghanistan from August 2005 to January 2006 and Iraq from May 2007 to June 2008, still holds a medical license in Indiana and Virginia, according to online license records.
“We are pleased that Christopher Warner has finally faced some accountability, but we are disappointed that the Army did not convene a court-martial and that the Army took so long to force his retirement,” said Donald Friedman, attorney for Warner’s former nanny.
Attorneys for Warner did not respond to a request for comment.
Amber, who worked as a nanny for Warner’s family more than a decade ago during his assignment at Fort Stewart, Ga., contacted the Army in 2020 at the encouragement of a therapist to report that Warner had sexually assaulted her numerous times.
Stars and Stripes typically does not name the victims of sexual assault, but Amber chose to be identified by her first name.
The Army’s decision to downgrade Warner’s retirement reaffirmed Amber’s decision to come forward, she said.
“I want to thank those that believed in me,” she said, mentioning the attorneys, criminal investigators and advocates at Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit that advocates to end sexual violence in the military.
Her report set off a process of nonjudicial punishment that likely would not have become public without Amber’s decision to share her story.
Warner first received a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand, then faced an officer panel known as a board of inquiry to determine whether the allegations of the reprimand were founded, Friedman said.
The panel did not find enough evidence that Warner committed sexual assault but did agree that he committed adultery, which is barred under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to service officials in emails about the case that were provided by Amber.
Warner then moved to a grade determination board and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth decided to retire Warner on May 31 at the reduced rank of captain, Friedman said.