May 26, 2005

Lt. Ilario Pantano cleared of all charges!

2nd Lt Ilario Pantano, USMC
Lt. Pantano jumps in elation after being cleared of the bogus charges
(Ok, not really, he's in Fallujah leading his troops)

From Defend The Defenders:

Art. 32 Investigating Officer Delivers Report and Recommendations:

Charges Preferred on 1 Feb 2005 Against Lt. Ilario Pantano Be Withdrawn and Dismissed

Yesterday, May 12, 2005, Major Winn, the Article 32 Investigating Officer for the charges against 2nd Lt Ilario Pantano, USMC, delivered his report and recommendations for disposition of the charges against Lt Pantano. In a thorough report describing the evidence, and more importantly, the credibility of Lt Pantano's chief accuser, Sgt Daniel Coburn, the investigating Officer recommended that the charges preferred on 1 February 2005 be withdrawn and dismissed by the Commanding General, 2d Marine Division. The charges against Lt Pantano included: pre-meditated murder, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer, and wrongful destruction of private property.

The key findings of the Investigating Officer included:

  • That the Government offered no credible evidence to contradict Lt Pantano's statement that he acted in self defense in response to a hostile act;
  • That Lt Pantano's shooting of the two Iraqis was justified in accordance with the then-prevailing Rules of Engagement;
  • That there was no credible evidence that Lt Pantano acted with premeditation;
  • That Lt Pantano was not derelict in his duties in the handling of Iraqi prisoners;
  • That Lt Pantano's use of the "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy was poor judgment but not criminal and not conduct unbecoming an officer; and,
  • That Lt Pantano did not act in a manner unbecoming an officer in his handling of the Iraqi prisoners.

Significantly, the investigating officer provided detailed findings concerning Sgt Daniel Coburn's credibility and noted that Sgt Coburn changed his testimony after reading accounts of other witnesses in the newspapers after he asked for an attorney and exercised his right to remain silent absent a grant of testimonial immunity.

The Investigating officer also noted that Lt Pantano's performance and reputation prior to the action of April 15, 2004 were considered outstanding and that the Marines and sailors from his platoon who testified in the Article 32 hearing generally agreed that they would seek to go to combat with Lt Pantano again in the future.

Although the investigating Officer concluded that the killing of the Iraqis was justified and in accordance with the ROE, he criticized Lt Pantano for the number of rounds he fired and concluded that the number of rounds fired was excessive and, as a result, Lt Pantano should received Commanding General's Non-Judicial Punishment for conduct unbecoming an officer.

Lt Pantano and his family are gratified that an unbiased and combat-tested Marine field grade officer, who provided the thorough and competent review warranted by the accusations against Lt Pantano, concluded that the serious allegations of murder and dereliction of duty had no merit. While Lt Pantano and his family, friends and supporters are disappointed with the recommendation for NJP for the number of rounds fired -- for which he was not even charged -- they are also gratified by the Investigating Officer's more significant recommendation: that all charges and specifications for which he was charged on 1 February 2005, should be withdrawn and dismissed. Lt Pantano, his family and supporters all hope that the Commanding General follows the recommendation of the officer the Commanding General personally chose to investigate this case.

One USMC statement read, "The best interests of 2nd Lt. Pantano and the government have been served by this process,"

I'll second that.

An AP report:

Supporters of Pantano said troops should not be second-guessed for decisions made in fleeting seconds of combat. [Now let's not forget that!--ed.] A North Carolina congressman had urged President Bush to intervene and dismiss charges.

Matt of BlackFive notoriety knows some of those who have served with Pantano, and states what few of us civilian folk would disagree with, "The ones that I know would follow Pantano to hell and back. "

Though this was posted on May 12 on DTD, it was not until today, May 26 2005 that a Marine Corps general officially dismissed all charges against Lt. Pantano.

You can find countless articles today across the newswires, the blogosphere, and other resources---but pay close attention to the titles associated with them.

Al-Reuters, in traditional form, had this descriptive title,

Marines clear officer who shot Iraqis

Simply putting "Iraqis" strips the situation of all context and makes it appear like they were merely civilians.

A notable-quotable (H/T: Matt) attributed to Bobby McBride, Crew Chief, 128th Assault Helicopter Company, (RVN 1969-1970)

"Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media for they will steal your honor."

Oh wait, it gets better.

At the end of the article it manages to get in some irrelevant homage to "humanitarian aid worker" Marla Ruzicka,

Statistics on civilian deaths in cross fire or at checkpoints in Iraq are scarce.

Last month, a humanitarian aid worker, Marla Ruzicka, reported that 29 civilians were killed during fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents in Baghdad alone between Feb. 28 and April 5.

Ruzicka herself was killed on April 16 when her car was caught in an insurgent attack.


Posted by Kyer at May 26, 2005 12:38 PM

Amen. It's a damn shame that a good Marine's name was dragged through the mud like this. Now we have to wonder what sort of long-term demoralizing effect this will have on our guys who simply cannot be second-guessing themselves when they're on the battlefield.

Posted by: patrickafir at May 26, 2005 02:21 PM

I hope he won't leave the Corps over this. Sounds like a fine man and a fine officer.

I wish him and his family the best.

Posted by: RP at May 26, 2005 03:27 PM

Actually, RP, Lt. Pantano is currently Stateside, working at Camp Lejeune as an assistant training officer helping to develop training regimen.

However, I have read that he wants to be re-assigned to his combat unit in Iraq.

How about that? He was subject to the death penalty if he was convicted by the very branch he serves under, and he wants to go back into the fray.

Now that is stuff of true warriors.

Semper Fi.

Posted by: kyer at May 26, 2005 03:39 PM

Agreed. To think that he would ask to go back to his unit after the way he was treated, it's kind of humbling. An example for us all, really, especially considering the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Posted by: RP at May 26, 2005 04:24 PM