Saturday, April 30, 2005

Pantano Accuser Granted Immunity

Marine Sgt. Daniel Coburn, the chief accuser of Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, was granted immunity by the prosecution after refusing to testify earlier for fear that he would incriminate himself for disobeying orders not to talk to media about the case. From the Boston Globe [emphasis added]:
...Coburn abruptly left the stand Wednesday when he was told he was suspected of violating orders forbidding him from giving interviews about the case. He told Marine officials he wouldn't return unless he was granted immunity from prosecution, and came back briefly Friday only to invoke his right to avoid incriminating himself.

Military lawyers said that was unnecessary because they have no plans to charge Coburn. They indicated they will instead submit written statements he gave to investigators.

Gittins, the defense attorney, asked a pair of generals to grant Coburn immunity so that the defense can complete its cross-examination. He said Coburn should be compelled to testify, and a failure to put him on the stand "makes this proceeding a sham."
Gittins is quite correct. Allowing the chief prosecution witness to avoid cross-examination would turn the hearing into a kangaroo court. With such outrageous behavior from the chief accuser, it's unclear why charges against Pantano were ever raised.

Coburn had been removed from his supervisory duties prior to the incident under investigation for performance issues. Other members of Pantano's and Coburn's unit have described Coburn as a "weak" Marine, bitter about Pantano's decision to remove him from a leadership role.