Moving testimony today from six defense witnesses on behalf of Lt. Pantano, who faces a possible death sentence for killing two Iraqi insurgents in the heat of battle in a terrorist-infested town near Baghdad. From AP:
Six defense witnesses spoke glowingly of 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano at a military pretrial hearing – at one point moving him to tears – after the prosecution closed its case with two Marines who described Pantano as sometimes overzealous or rough in his handling of prisoners.
“He’s a great Marine,” testified former Marine Martin McPherson, who served under Pantano in Iraq. “He had the attention to detail you need to bring back your men alive. He knew exactly what he needed to do, and he did it.”
Pantano, a former Wall Street trader who rejoined the Marines after the Sept. 11 attacks, has said he shot the detainees in self-defense during an April 2004 search outside a suspected terrorist hideout in Iraq.
Another witness, Lance Cpl. James Faleris, a machine gunner who worked under Pantano in Iraq, described how Lt. Pantano gave local children candy, toys and soccer balls, and made his platoon study Iraqi language and culture for an hour each day as they prepared to deploy.
“He’s hands-down the best officer I’ve ever had the privilege to serve under,” Faleris said.
Update: Lots of close coverage and new information on the Pantano hearing by Kit Harrell at Euphoric Reality. (Hat tip: Matt Margolis) Note especially this post and this one on the role bloggers have played in the case. Sgt. Daniel Coburn, Lt. Pantano’s chief accuser, was yanked off the witness stand this week for possible criminal violations. Coburn is suspected of ignoring orders not to discuss the case with the media or outside outlets. In addition to speaking with ABC News and the New Yorker magazine, Coburn may have been posting on the Euphoric Reality blog under the pseudonym “Marinethatknows,” according to Kit.
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