Three Republicans are vying for the nomination to run for the seat and all three are military vets — but only one has the kind of star power that comes with a personal story that extends from Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan to the fast-money world of Wall Street, and includes film-making, a best-selling book, an appearance on "The Daily Show" and charges of murdering two Iraqi civilians.
But before the GOP gets too excited about seeing former Marine 1st Lt. Ilario Pantano take a seat in Congress, it had better face up to the fact that the former infantry officer isn’t your typical Red stater. . . .
April 2004 found him leading a platoon in Mahmudiya, Iraq, where he had in custody two Iraqis he suspected were involved in anti-coalition activities. According to various accounts, Marines had already searched the men’s car and found no weapons. But when weapons were found in a nearby house, Pantano wanted the car stripped down for another search.
Then the shooting started. When it was over, both Iraqis were dead. Pantano said he killed them in self defense. Marine prosecutors called it murder and roughly a year later he faced an Article 32 hearing on the charges. But when witness testimony fell apart from inconsistencies and autopsies on the Iraqis’ exhumed bodies supported Pantano’s version of events, the charges were dismissed. . . .
"I went out to do a dirty job for my country and in the process I got jammed up," he said. "I never broke with my Corps. I never broke with my country. I never said I was a victim. I took responsibility. I did what I did. I killed men in combat and if you don’t like it, don’t send men to war."