On this day in 2005, a U.S. Marine general drops murder charges against 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, a Wall Street trader and former Marine who had rejoined the service after the attacks of September 11. Pantano had been accused of the premeditated murder of two suspected Iraqi insurgents, a crime punishable by death.
In April 2004, the then 33-year-old Pantano had been leading a Marine platoon in the investigation of a suspected terrorist hideout in Al Anbar, Iraq. According to Pantano, he shot the two Iraqi men in self-defense after they ignored instructions and seemed to make a threatening move toward him. A witness in the case contended, however, that Pantano had shot the men in the back while they were kneeling. Prosecutors in the case attempted to show that Pantano had killed the men as a warning to others in the area, and pointed to the fact that he had fired 60 times and then hung a sign over their dead bodies that read, “No better friend, no worse enemy,” moves Pantano did not deny.
In an April 2005 Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury session, other witnesses and fellow Marines praised Pantano as a soldier and rebutted the other witness’ testimony, chalking it up to the soldier’s anger at Pantano for removing him from a leadership role in the platoon. Upon the conclusion of the hearing, hearing officer Lieutenant Colonel Mark Winn recommended that the charges be dropped, but that Pantano be given some sort of punishment for desecrating the bodies of the Iraqis.
The matter was then referred to Major General Richard Huck, commander of the 2nd Marine Division, who decided to drop the charges and declined to further punish Pantano, who had been demoted after the incident.
Ilario Pantano resigned from the Marines in June 2005. A book about his experiences, Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy was published in 2006.