Thursday, April 14, 2005

LT Ilario Pantano waives his Article 32 hearing in favor of Court Martial trial

In my email this morning was a letter from Merry Pantano, mother of LT Ilario Pantano, letting me know that LT Pantano was waiving his Article 32 hearing, which was scheduled to begin April 25th. LT Pantano's decision to opt for a Court Martial trial is a result of the Marine Corps' refusal to provide access to evidence, per the rules; denial of Pantano's request for a judge to review the rules of evidence; and denial of witnesses from outside a 100 mile radius.

My son asked for a Military Judge to act as investigating officer -- as has been done in many past important Marine Corps cases -- because only someone with real legal experience understands the laws of evidence and can compel the prosecution to provide the evidence they are supposed to provide. That request was denied.

My son and his lawyers asked for the actual Rules of Engagement (ROE) that applied in the “Triangle of Death” at that bloody time in the war which clearly paints a picture of escalating violence and response. That request went unanswered. But, is my son not accused of violating these rules? How can they fail to provide the very rules he is accused of violating?

My son and his lawyers have asked for the intelligence reports on enemy activity in the area at that volatile time and again the request went unanswered.
-Merry Pantano


LT Pantano and his counsel believes that the legal process of a court martial will shed light on previously hidden and overlooked facts.

If all relevant facts and all relevant witnesses are not going to be considered during this hearing how can it possibly be fair? I understand possible misperceptions that my son’s demand for speedy trial may generate, but as we stand here today, with my son accused of murder while leading men in combat in Iraq and less than two weeks before a pre-trial hearing of the “facts,” half the facts are still missing!

Almost a year after the investigation began my son still has not been not provided with the basics of his requests for evidence that can show his innocence. Were these things never sought by the prosecution? How could they have overlooked such important context in a case that is so detail driven? Or worse yet, if they, the prosecution, have this evidence, their failure to share this evidence with the defense further imperils my son and casts a shadow on this entire process. My son has been left with no choice but to turn to the court in the hopes that a Military Judge can shed light on this situation.
-Merry Pantano


Furthermore, as you all know from having read my previous article on Pantano's accuser, Sgt. Daniel Coburn, there was evidence that Coburn was actively campaigning against Pantano online.
Furthermore, my son’s chief accuser, who has claimed on a number of occasions to bear no grudge against my son, has been in various internet chat rooms slandering and disparaging my son. This malicious behavior which began two months ago was brought to our attention by concerned citizens who were able to verify his electronic identity. In believing that he could attack my son anonymously in order to damage my son’s reputation and salvage his own career, he has once again demonstrated his disingenuous motives in launching his accusations. I would hope that NCIS is investigating the motives and behavior of my son’s accuser, but since none of that has made it into the case so far, I have no confidence that it will now, even if that fact alone should be grounds to drop the charges.
-Merry Pantano

The source of Coburn's online "endeavors" is, of course, Euphoric Reality, where Coburn had hoped to post his persepctive on LT Pantano anonymously. Obviously he didn't reckon with Kit. :) Kit has updated her part in the story here.

Now, there's a NEW scoop at Euphoric Reality! Kit has managed to get an exclusive interview with Mr. Gittens, LT Pantano's attorney. She will post the interview today, and I'll post the link here. I've already read it and it's a must read! Don't miss it!

OK, here's the wrap: the specifics of LT Pantano's waiver can be read here, and his mother's letter explaining the decision can be read here. Both are now posted in public at www.DefendtheDefenders.org.