||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (March 2010)|
|Ilario Gregory Pantano|
August 28, 1971 |
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1989-1993
|Unit||1st Battalion, 6th Marines
2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines
|Awards||Combat Action Ribbon with gold star (second award)|
|Other work||Deputy sheriff|
Ilario Gregory Pantano (born August 28, 1971) is a former United States Marine Corps second lieutenant. He has also been an author, a television commentator, and served as a deputy sheriff in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was a Republican Party nominee for the US House of Representatives in 2010.
Pantano served in the Persian Gulf War, during Operation Desert Storm, and in the Iraq War, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He came to national attention when he was accused of premeditated murder in the killing of two Iraqi captives, during a unit mission near Fallujah, Iraq on April 15, 2004. An article 32 hearing found no credible evidence or testimony for the accusation and declined to prosecute Pantano, dropping all charges. The day after the charges were dropped, forensic evidence from the autopsies of the two Iraqis corroborated Pantano's testimony - that he shot the Iraqi captives as they moved toward him. Shortly thereafter, Pantano was offered another platoon command back in Iraq. Claiming terrorist threats against his family, he resigned his officer's commission and was honorably discharged. These events and his other experiences as a combat Marine during the Persian Gulf War and in Iraq in 2004 are the subject of his memoir, Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.
Early life, education and business career 
Pantano was born in New York City and grew up in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. His father, Benito, was an Italian emigrant, and his mother, Merry, a literary agent, is a native of Salina, Kansas. He attended the private Horace Mann High School in New York City on scholarship. Following graduation he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served active duty in the first Gulf War.
Following his return to civilian life, Pantano earned an economics degree from New York University. He worked as an energy trader for Goldman Sachs. From 1995 to 1998, he was a member of the start-up team that integrated top-tier investment bank culture (GS) with utility business (BG&E) in Constellation Power, an electricity trading joint venture that was acquired for $11 billion by FPL.[jargon] Shortly thereafter, he became a movie producer with the New York-based firm The Shooting Gallery, and co-founded Filter Media, a company specializing in interactive television. Pantano married Jill Chapman, a fashion model and entrepreneur who had appeared in Vogue Italia. The couple live in North Carolina and have two sons.
Military service and controversy 
First enlistment 
Rejoins the USMC 
Immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Pantano decided to rejoin the Marines. Pantano's apartment was next to a fire station where eleven firemen, four of whom were former Marines, perished in the attacks. He was accepted as an officer candidate, and graduated at the top of his class. After completing Officer Candidate School he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, at the age of thirty.
He was a popular officer and his superiors described him as the best platoon commander in his battalion. His men reported that they appreciated the extra training drills he put them through. As Time Magazine reported in 2005, "Pantano prepared his platoon by working the men hard. His men grumbled (enlisted men call officers like Pantano "motarded"—motivated to the point of retardation). But he believed that the more they trained, the fitter they were, the more chance they had of surviving a real war. The effort paid off. In more than 40 combat operations, the platoon suffered one casualty—a shrapnel nick from incoming mortar. Then the insurgency erupted. Newly arrived units took more casualties in a few days than their predecessors had in eight months."
Incident, hearing and aftermath 
On April 15, 2004, acting on intelligence extracted from captured insurgents, Lieutenant Pantano led his platoon against a compound near the town of Mahmudiyah. As the platoon approached the compound, they saw a vehicle with two Iraqis in it. Pantano ordered his men to stop the vehicle and to have the occupants of the vehicle handcuffed. The vehicle was searched for weapons. Lieutenant Pantano remained with the captives, while the rest of his platoon secured the compound. The compound was deserted, but his men found a cache of arms, including "several mortar aiming stakes, a flare gun, three AK47 rifles, 10 AK magazines with assault vests and IED making material".
When Pantano learned that the compound contained weapons, he ordered Sergeant Daniel Coburn and Corpsman George Gobles to watch for enemies. He then released the captives from their bonds so they could search the vehicle again more thoroughly. According to a statement Lieutenant Pantano made to military investigators in June 2004, he then used hand signals to order the captives to search the vehicle again. According to Pantano, during the search of the vehicle he felt the Iraqis posed a threat to him. They were talking and Pantano believed they were conspiring together. When they both turned to face each other he shouted "Stop!" in both Arabic and English, and when they did not stop, he shot them. He later stated: "I then changed magazines and continued to fire until the second magazine was empty...I had made a decision that when I was firing I was going to send a message to these Iraqis and others that when we say, 'No better friend, No worse enemy,' we mean it. I had fired both magazines into the men, hitting them with about 80 percent of my rounds."
In June 2004, Sergeant Coburn, whom Pantano had previously demoted, registered a complaint about the incident, triggering a Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe. On February 1, 2005, Pantano was charged with two counts of premeditated murder, and faced the death penalty if convicted.
On April 14, 2005, Pantano tried to waive his right to an Article 32 pretrial hearing, in an effort to speed the process toward a court martial. Pantano claimed that the government was withholding key evidence and witnesses and according to a statement made by his mother, waived his right to a hearing "in order to get a Military Judge to compel the prosecution to produce witnesses and evidence in his case." The request was denied and the Article 32 hearing was held on April 26, 2005 with Major Mark Winn as the presiding officer.
Prior to Pantano's Article 32 hearing the Department of Defense had maintained that it was impossible to do a post-mortem examination on the corpses of Lieutenant Pantano's captives because they were buried in a cemetery that was in an area that was not under American control. However, shortly before the hearing and a year after the incident itself, the bodies were exhumed. The autopsy report was released the day after the Article 32 recommendation was made and, according to The Washington Times, confirmed Lt. Pantano's testimony that he had shot the men as they approached him.
Pantano's statements 
Pantano acknowledged leaving a sign on a car above the corpses that said, "No better friend, No worse enemy," but then returned to remove it after one of his colleagues called it 'inappropriate'. This phrase is the motto of his Marine Corps battalion, and is promoted by his battalion commander as the combat philosophy of their unit. The slogan is also a popular Marine saying popularized by Lieutenant General James Mattis, then commanding general of the 1st Marine Division. In an interview with the BBC from March 20, 2005, Lieutenant Pantano said, "I'm a New Yorker and 9/11 was a pretty significant event for me, our duty as Marines is, quite frankly, to export violence to the four corners of the globe, to make sure that this doesn't happen again."
Navy Corpsman George Gobles was present but did not witness the danger Lieutenant Pantano reported, because he was looking outwards, as ordered. He later stated when he turned back he saw the Iraqis trying to run away. Sergeant Coburn is reported to have said "As soon as I turned my back, Lt. Pantano opened [fire] with approximately 45 rounds." Coburn, throughout the case, gave five distinctly separate versions of events. Pantano's defense counsels have said they believe that Sergeant Daniel Coburn's account should not be given any credit, because he was disgruntled, having been demoted recently by Pantano.
Sergeant Coburn gave several interviews to the media after being ordered not to do so by a superior officer. A report by the officer investigating the claims found "a great deal of discrepancies and conflicting testimony given by Sgt. Coburn", and noted that he might have been prompted to make his allegations by his numerous poor performance reports.
In his testimony at Pantano's hearing, Corporal "O" described interviewing the two captives. He described seeing the vehicle being searched by other Marines, including the removal of its seats. He described seeing the corpses of the captives, following the shooting, face down, with the heads and torsos in the vehicle and their knees resting on the ground, as if Pantano shot the captives in the back while they were kneeling facing the vehicle. Corporal "O" described the sight as "weird".
"Sergeant M", a counter intelligence specialist whose full name couldn't be released, testified that when he questioned the two Iraqi men, they lied and said there were no weapons in the house they fled from. Marines found three AK-47 assault rifles with loaded magazines and mortar aiming stakes, in addition to Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein propaganda in the house.
Sergeant M said he believed the men were probably insurgents, and they were not going to be released.
Sergeant M and Petty Officer 3rd Class George Gobles, the Navy corpsman attached to Pantano's platoon, both testified that Pantano was a good leader who frequently made himself available to the Iraqi people.
"He said we should always present ourselves as humanitarians and greet them with smiles on our face," Gobles said. "That was the way he was, and that was the way he taught us to be."
In his closing arguments, Pantano's lawyer argued the following as justification for the killings:
“What you have to remember is you can’t import civilian standards into a combat situation. This isn't Chicago. This is Iraq, Indian country..."
Major Winn recommended to Major General Richard Huck, commander of Lieutenant Pantano's division, that the murder charges be dropped and Pantano be held to account for desecration of the corpses. It was his assessment that Sergeant Coburn was an uncredible witness.
The officer who conducted last month's hearing, Lt. Col. Mark E. Winn, recommended in a report to General Huck that criminal charges were not warranted, but sharply criticized Lieutenant Pantano's decision to have the car stopped and to focus so closely on the two men to begin with. Colonel Winn recommended nonjudicial discipline, because the sign and the number of rounds fired were in his opinion unwarranted and excessive. Lieutenant Edwards said, however, that General Huck would not issue any nonjudicial punishment.
the spokesman, Second Lt. Barry Edwards, said of the autopsy. "The initial findings corroborated Second Lieutenant Pantano's version of the events." Lieutenant Edwards would not elaborate further on the autopsy results."
Website and internet threats 
The website claimed the Iraqis had advanced on him in a threatening manner, that he had ordered them to stop, and fired on them, in self-defense when they failed to do so. On February 17, 2005, it was reported that Ms. Pantano's site went down, and a parallel site with a similar name went up. It was reported that the parallel site contained threats against Pantano, and his family; that it contained a video simulating Pantano being decapitated.
A website, using an address nearly identical to one launched by the officer's family, posted photographs depicting Pantano beheaded by a hooded jihadist.
Capt. Larry Hines of the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office in Wilmington confirmed to WorldNetDaily an investigation regarding the website is underway, but he has not come to any conclusions yet. Hines also confirmed the FBI is probing the threat.
Gittins told the Times he believes the hostile site was created in Pakistan and said cyberattacks earlier this week from the Middle East country shut down the website created for Pantano's defense by his mother, Merry K. Pantano.
Retired Marines volunteered to stand a security watch over Pantano's home.
Pantano received support from internet websites and organizations which specialize in supporting the troops. He received backing from certain talk radio personalities, specifically Michael Savage who spent day after day raising awareness of Pantano's situation and even conducted several interviews with Pantano and his family.
North Carolina's Third District U.S. Representative Walter B. Jones introduced House Resolution 167 which expressed the support of the House of Representatives for Pantano. On February 25, Congressman Jones wrote a letter to President Bush asking for his support for Pantano.
On April 14, 2005, the Association for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs sent a letter to then President Bush endorsing House Resolution 167 in support of Ilario Pantano.
- House Resolution 167 in support of 2LT Ilario Pantano, March 17, 2005. 
- LA Deputy Sheriffs' endorsement of HR 167, April 14, 2005. 
- Congressman Walter Jones' public statement of support, May 5, 2005. 
- Congressman Walter Jones' endorsement of Pantano's memoir, June 6, 2006. 
On June 12, 2006, Pantano's autobiographical account of his experiences, Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy, was released by Threshold Editions, Mary Matalin's Simon & Schuster imprint. On July 10, 2006, he appeared as on The Daily Show to promote the book.
In November 2011, Simon & Schuster released a new edition of Pantano's book, Warlord: Broken by War, Saved by Grace, containing the letter from Mr. Rodriguez.
Political career 
2010 congressional campaign 
- Alaskan Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin
- Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
|US House of Representatives 7th District Republican Primary Election 2010|
|Republican||Ilario Gregory Pantano||17,177||51.02%|
|US House of Representatives 7th District General Election 2010|
|Republican||Ilario Gregory Pantano||98,328||46.32%|
2012 congressional campaign 
On December 15, 2011, Pantano appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss matters and to announce he would again challenge the incumbent holding North Carolina's 7th congressional district, Mike McIntyre. Redistrincting made the district more favorable to Republicans. Pantano and a third candidate, Randy Crow, lost the primary to North Carolina legislator David Rouzer, who opposed McIntyre in the general election in November 2012.
See also 
- Charles Gittins, Pantano's civilian lawyer.
- "Murder or self-defense? N.C. Marine faces charge in Iraq killings". Winston-Salem Journal. March 7, 2005. Retrieved 2006-04-24.
- Fishman, Steve (April 25, 2005). "Hell's Kitchen". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2006-04-24.
- "Did He Go Too Far?". Time Magazine. February 28, 2005. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
- "Map of Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq". Multimap.com. Retrieved 2006-06-15.
- Scarborough, Ryan. "Witness says accused Marine ordered Iraqis to stop.". Retrieved 2006-04-24.
- Papandrea, Roselee (April 27, 2005). "Pantano hearing opens". The Daily News (Jacksonville, North Carolina). Retrieved 2006-04-24.[dead link]
- Scarborogh, Rowan (May 27, 2005). "Charges dropped against Pantano". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2006-04-24.
- BBC interview on March 20, 2005
- "Witness Taken Off Stand in Marine's Trial". Fox News. October 20, 2011.
- Estes Thompson (14 May 2005). "Marine might not face murder charges". The Free Lance-Star. Associated Press. p. B10.
- Papandrea, Rosalee (April 28, 2005). "Investigation stalls hearing on Pantano". Jacksonville Daily News. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
- Desantis, John (May 27, 2005). "Marine Cleared in Deaths of 2 Insurgents in Iraq". New York Times, May 27, 2005. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
- Defend the Defenders, a site founded by Pantano's mother
- Moore, Art (February 16, 2005). "FBI probing threat against accused Marine". Retrieved 2010-01-14. Text "Web photos depict beheading, home under security watch" ignored (help)
- Scarborogh, Rowan (February 17, 2005). "Former Marines protect Pantano". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
- LA Sheriffs' Letter
- Pantano, Ilario; Malcolm McConnell (2006). Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy. Threshold Editions imprint of Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1-4165-2426-6.
- "Marine Ilario Pantano Exonerated of Murdering Iraqi Prisoners; Runs for Congress in North Carolina". December 15, 2011. Unknown parameter
- John Ramsey (2012-11-08). "Mike McIntyre holds tenuous lead over David Rouzer in 7th Congressional District" (in English). Fayatville Observer. Retrieved 2012-11-12. "McIntyre coasted to victory in his first six attempts to win re-election. But two years ago, he narrowly defeated Republican challenger Ilario Pantano with 54 percent of the vote."
- Pickey, Scott (October 28, 2010). "VOTE 2010: Former NYC Mayor Giuliani endorses Pantano". WWAY-TV NewsChannel 13. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
- "NC 7th District Republican Primary Election Results 2010". NC State Board of Elections. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- "NC 7th District General Election Results 2010". NC State Board of Elections. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
- Patrick Gannon (2012-04-17). "GOP candidates for 7th District square off" (in English). Star News Online. Retrieved 2012-11-12. "Pantano said repeatedly that he was the only candidate who supports the budget plan of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. Rouzer said he doesn't support the Ryan budget in part because it doesn't balance the federal budget until 2040."
- Patrick Gannon (2012-10-05). "Rouzer's chances tied to GOP's legislative record" (in English). Star News Online. Retrieved 2012-11-12. "Rouzer is expected to fare well in Johnston County, where he grew up working on the family farm and where nearly a quarter of the registered voters in the 7th District reside. Had it not been for his home county, he would have lost to Pantano in the primary."
- Pantano for Congress official website.
- Ilario Pantano official website
- Life on the Front Lines Time Magazine (May 10, 2004)
- Re-enlisting Led to Warfare And Charges Of Murder New York Times (February 12, 2005)
- FBI probing threat against accused Marine : "Web photos depict beheading, home under security watch", WorldNetDaily.com (February 16, 2005)
- "Did He Go Too Far?" Time Magazine (February 28, 2005)
- Kates, Brian (6 March 2005). "A Warrior Faces Tougest Battle". The New York Daily News. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
-  Euphoric Reality website's collection of blogposts covering the Pantano case (February 15, 2005-June 11, 2006)
- Murder or self-defense? "N.C. Marine faces charge in Iraq killings", Winston-Salem Journal (March 7, 2005)
- "Goldman Sachs GI ‘shot Iraqis in back’", Sunday Times (April 26, 2005)
- Pantano hearing opens Jacksonville Daily News, April 27, 2005
- N.Y. MARINE IN THE CLEAR; KILLING IRAQ TERRORISTS WAS JUSTIFIED: PROBE, New York Post (May 14, 2005)
- "Marine's Shooting of Iraqis Justified, Probe Concludes", Washington Post, (May 15, 2005)
- RUSH TO JUDGMENT - HADITHA 'FACTS' GET MURKIER, The New York Post (June 13, 2006)
- Article 32 Report
- "Ilario Pantano" (VIDEO). The Daily Show. 10 July 2006. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- Perry, Tony (9 September 2006). "Ex-Marine Warns Not to Rush to Judgment". The Los Angeles Times.
- Talton, Trista (9 May 2007). "Web site to raise support for MarSOC Marines". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- Gertz, Bill (29 October 2009). "Inside the Ring". The Washington Times. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- Scarborough, Rowan (30 November 2011). "For Marine, a rush to judgment and a belated vindication". The Washington Times. Retrieved 3 January 2012.