After her son Ilario was charged with the premeditated murder of two unarmed Iraqis, Merry Pantano founded Defend the Defenders, an organization that accepted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from people across the country to supposedly fund private defense attorney legal costs for Ilario and other armed services members charged with war crimes.
Although the last updates of trials in the current cases listed on the website were in 2007, the organization did not stop taking donations until January of 2010, the same month Ilario announced he was running for Congress. The New York Secretary of State website, however, indicates the organization is still active.
Furthermore, the corporation appears to be in violation of state law. According to Part 90.2 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations for Charitable Organizations, a charitable organization includes a not-for-profit organization like Defend the Defenders. Additionally, Part 90.5 of the Rules requires registration with the New York Charities Bureau, Annual Filings and independent Audit Reports – none of which Defend the Defenders has complied. In fact, the organization is not even registered with the Charities Bureau.
Also coincidental is that Pantano has not held a job since February of 2007, and recently, his means of income are increasingly in question. At the October 11th debate in the Odell Williamson Auditorium in Brunswick County, Pantano was asked what exactly he does for a living. After fumbling through a litany of time-fillers such as as work-study fellowship and a small consulting gig from several years ago, Pantano cited the deputy sheriff’s job he quit three years prior and his authorship of the memoir Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy (which wasn’t a bestseller contrary to some news stories and is currently going for a whopping $4.18 on Amazon).
Pantano then claimed he was proud to have his wife, Jill, support his family as a “high-powered executive.” But some quick Googling reveals Jill works for Hawthorne Executive Search, which only pays on commission. And the latest blog posts by her bosses, Robert Hawthorne and Ken Clark, don’t paint a great picture of employee earnings right now. In fact, Ken is basically pleading to companies looking to hire to send him more business. That means Jill not only supports a family of four by herself, but also is responsible for paying off a $52k and $277k mortgage! Okay.
All of this research, however, would be unnecessary if the Republican candidate for the 7th District of North Carolina would just disclose his financial earning records along with those of the supposed non-profit, Defend the Defenders.org, Inc. In the meantime, those who gave to the organization and want to know what happened to their money might want to file a Complaint with the New York Charities Bureau.
If there’s nothing to hide and his life is an “open book” as he claims, then Pantano has nothing to fear. If he continues to remain closed-off and give half-truth answers, however, then we all should be afraid.