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WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) -- A lieutenant once charged with murder in the deaths of two Iraqis said



Published: Sat, June 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) -- A lieutenant once charged with murder in the deaths of two Iraqis said Friday he is leaving the Marine Corps because he believes he would be a target if he returned to the battlefield.

Second Lt. Ilario Pantano said insurgents would seek him out to "capitalize on the publicity surrounding me." Such scrutiny would hurt his fellow Marines and interfere with their work, he said.

Pantano, a former Wall Street trader who returned to the Marines after Sept. 11, 2001, was charged with murder after riddling two Iraqis with bullets and hanging a warning sign on their corpses. Pantano said he acted in self-defense.

Last week, a Marine general decided not to bring Pantano to trial, following the advice of an officer who presided over the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing.

Pantano resigned his commission Wednesday, his wife said, although he is still reporting for duty at nearby Camp Lejeune until it is accepted. Speaking Friday at an American Legion fish fry, Pantano said leaving is "genuinely in the best interest of the Marine Corps and my family."

He said he has received threatening e-mails, adding that a Web site based in Pakistan had posted death threats against him. Those threats persuaded him to leave to protect his family, which also includes two young sons.




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