MAY 13, 2005 -- Two weeks after a hearing at Camp Lejeune, the officer presiding over the case recommends Ilario Pantano not be court-martialed. This is the equivalent of a trial that could have resulted in the death penalty.
The Wilmington Marine is accused of killing two Iraqi civilians, but maintains it was self-defense. Matt Rhodes, a friend of Pantano's says he's celebrating. "It's been a long road for him. It was very unexpected for him to come home from the battlefield to another type of battlefield. He won this battle as well. He's very happy."
Major Mark Winn's conclusions are that Pantano should be cleared of criminal wrongdoing. "It is my recommendation", Winn writes "that the charges be withdrawn." However, Winn adds that Pantano was "morally and ethically wrong" to fire thirty rounds into the bodies. Winn says this is a disgrace of the armed forces that should be punished possibly by loss of rank or other sanctions.
A copy of the officers report has been posted on Pantano's web site at www.defendthedefenders.org. A spokesman at Camp Lejeune says these documents usually aren't made public until the commanding general signs off on the report.
The news has already traveled to Pantano's supporters at American Legion Post 10 in Wilmington. Member Richard Porrazzo cries as he says, "He's putting his life on the line defending our country. What more do you want?"
Winn's recommendations now go up the chain of command. Pantano is on the verge of victory.