Wall Street Marine to Be Cleared?

ByABC News
May 16, 2005, 8:00 AM

May 16, 2005 — -- Murder charges against Wall Street-trader-turned-Marine 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano should be dropped, according to a report by an investigating officer.

The New York-born Marine is accused of premeditated murder in the deaths of two Iraqi civilians, but maintains he acted in self-defense last year during combat operations.

"He's pleased to see what has come to light, something he's been saying from the very beginning," Pantano's mother, Merry Pantano, told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Pantano's fate now rests with a company commander at Camp Lejeune, N.C., who must decide whether to drop charges, which could have resulted in the death penalty. A military spokesman said the decision will be made within "a reasonable time period."

The investigating officer, Lt. Col. Mark Winn, filed his report last week; in it, he stated that the government offered no credible evidence to contradict Pantano's statement that he acted in self-defense. "It is my recommendation," Winn wrote, "that the charges be withdrawn."

"They did a quick investigation on the battlefield," Pantano's wife, Jill, told "Good Morning America" of the initial military investigation. "They interviewed only one person, my husband's sole accuser, Sgt. Daniel Coburn."

Winn questioned Coburn's credibility, noting that the sergeant's testimony changed after reading accounts of other witnesses in the newspapers. Coburn, Pantano's radio operator during the incident, had claimed in his account of the killings that Pantano had appeared agitated and seemed like he wanted to teach the insurgents a lesson. The charges of premeditated murder were based in part on Coburn's early statements.

Winn also noted that Pantano's performance and reputation prior to the killing were outstanding. Pantano's fellow Marines testified during his pretrial hearing in early May that they trusted Pantano and would seek to go to combat with him again in the future.