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From the Ash Heap: Camp LeJeune

I came across these sketches I did back in 2005 at Camp LeJeune of an Article 32 hearing – the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing – for Second Lieutenant Ilario Pantano. Lt. Pantano was charged with the premeditated murder of two Iraqis.

When the World Trade Towers collapsed on 9/11 Pantano was living in New York, where he grew up, and had recently started his own business after a stint at Goldman Sachs. Shortly after the attacks he reenlisted in the Marines and was soon leading a platoon in the Sunni Triangle.


On April 15 , 2004 while investigating a report of insurgents at a compound Lt. Pantano stopped a car in which two Iraqis were attempting to leave. After knocking out the glass, flattening the tires and searching the vehicle Pantano released the Iraqis from their cuffs and ordered them to do an additional search of the vehicle. Sergeant Daniel Coburn and Corpsman George “Doc” Gobles were standing guard at either end, facing away from the vehicle, when they heard a short verbal exchange between the lieutenant and the Iraqis and then gunfire. Lt. Patanao emptied one M-16 magazine, then another, into the men. He then wrote on a piece of cardboard “NO BETTER FRIEND, NO WORST ENEMY” and placed it on the car where the bodies laid.


A couple months later Sergeant Coburn, who had recently been demoted by Lt. Pantano to radio operator, registered a complaint which led to the Lieutenant being charged with two counts of premeditated murder.

When Sgt. Coburn took the stand to testify it came out that he had spoken to the media in direct violation of orders not to do so. The hearing took a dramatic turn as Pantano’s lawyer confronted Coburn with his remarks that contradicted what he had told naval investigators. The hearing was stopped and the presiding officer, Lt. Col. Mark E. Winn, informed the sergeant of his Miranda rights. In his report Colonel Winn found “a great deal of discrepancies and conflicting testimony given by Sgt. Coburn”. The charges against Lt. Pantano were eventually dropped.

You can read more about Ilario Pantano in this New York Magazine article.

Alabama Redistricting

After the 2010 census Alabama redrew its voting map with the result that some districts became more white/Republican and others more black/Democratic. Two groups, the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference challenged the state’s redistricting plan saying that the plan “packed” predominantly African American districts on the basis of race.

It’s a complicated and unusual case where the sides historically arguing racial quotas have switched. Rather than attempt to explain the argument, I’ll just post my pictures and refer the reader to Richard Hansen’s analysis on SCOTUSblog.

” . . the so-called “crab claws” that the parties describe that extend out from the district capture African American populations.” -Solicitor General Verrilli


“Everyone Loves Cell Phones . . .

. . . Nobody likes towers, apparently.” said Justice Breyer during yesterday’s argument in T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell.

The city council of Roswell, Georgia – which has more cell towers than square miles – denied a request by T-Mobile to erect a cell phone tower in a residential area. No reason for the decision was given in the city’s letter of denial though the meeting minutes were supplied within a few weeks.

T-Mobile’s lawyer told the Court that the explicit reasons “supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record” should accompany the city’s decision.

The Solicitor General’s lawyer said that it is sufficient that the reasons for the denial may be found in the minutes.

And the lawyer for the City of Roswell suggested an interesting approach in that he supported the SG’s argument that the reasoning can be found in the minutes but added that the letter of denial was not actually the decision. The decision by the city council, he argued, was not taken until the minutes were approved. The earlier letter of denial was merely a notification.

There was, of course, much more to the argument than what I’m capable of reporting. For more see Miriam Seifter’s analysis on SCOTUSblog.

A Made For TV Kidnapping


When Delvin Barnes snatched a Philadelphia woman off the street Sunday night it was recorded by surveillance cameras. And when he later used the victim’s ATM at a bank and a convenience store it was again on camera.

Barnes is a bad guy. There was already a warrant for his arrest for an October abduction in Virginia of a 16 year-old girl who escaped naked, doused in bleach and gasoline. He appeared by closed-circuit TV in Baltimore county district court yesterday before being extradited to Virginia to face attempted murder and rape charges.

When he arrived in Virginia he was “perp-walked” through a crowd of reporters shouting questions to which he responded with vulgar words of language. It made for great TV.

True, the story was also interesting for the way the authorities used GPS to track Barnes car – the dealer who sold him the vehicle had the GPS device installed because of Barnes’ bad credit – but what really made this a prime-time story was all the video. I’m afraid my sketch, which was in fact partly drawn from a video screen, got left on the cutting-room floor so to speak.