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Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin
WASHINGTON – Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, the officer who raised questions about Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president only to be struck down by a military court’s banishment of evidence about his concerns, has been convicted of the most serious charge he faced, missing a flight scheduled to take him to a new assignment.
Lakin was convicted yesterday by Judge Denise Lind on three counts of disobeying orders during the first day of his court martial. The court-martial panel deliberated this morning on the last count, a charge he missed his flight to report for duty.
Lakin had pleaded guilty to four counts related to disobeying orders yesterday, but one count was subsequently dismissed by Lind at the request of Lakin’s counsel, Neal Puckett. Lakin was convicted then of two counts of failing to obey orders to meet with his commanding officer and one count of failing to report as ordered to Fort Campbell, Ky., to join the 101st Airborne Division prior to the unit’s deployment to Afghanistan.
Unlike the civilian legal system, a military court can immediately convict any defendant who pleads guilty to a crime.
The possible penalties include dismissal as well as up to 42 months in prison.
Lakin openly admits he willfully chose to disobey orders to deploy to Afghanistan over concerns that his orders were not lawful. Lakin is not sure whether President Barack Obama is a legitimate commander-in-chief of the armed forces because Obama has failed to prove he is eligible under the U.S. Constitution to occupy the Oval Office.
Lakin deliberately exposed himself to a court martial in the hope of forcing Obama, during the “discovery” process, to prove he is eligible to serve as president by producing identity documents including his birth certificate. Lakin hoped the documents would establish whether Obama is a “natural born Citizen,” as required of any American president by Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.
As reported earlier by WND, Puckett acknowledged the convictions were inevitable after Lind denied Lakin the right to discovery, and forbade the defense from producing any evidence or experts who might persuade the court martial panel, a jury of Army officers, that Lakin’s deliberate disobedience of orders was justifiable.
Even before the trial, Lakin admitted he had knowingly disobeyed orders. In fact, he warned his military commanders that he intended to disobey orders to deploy to Afghanistan as part of Obama’s surge strategy in order to force the Army to put him on trial.
Puckett announced last week that his goal, under the circumstances, no longer was to have Lakin acquitted, but to persuade his court-martial panel not to send him to prison.
During the review of panelists, Puckett made a point of asking potential jurors whether they believed an Army officer could ever justifiably disobey orders.
Puckett’s defense of the fourth count, missing movement, centered on the technical point that Lakin did not violate Article 87 of the UCMJ by missing the particular flights he was supposed to take from the Washington, D.C., area to Kentucky.
“Was there a duty to be on that flight?” the defense counsel asked the court martial panel. “To find him guilty, [the prosecution] must show he had a duty to make the flight.”
Puckett repeatedly has challenged prosecution witnesses to show where, in Lakin’s orders, he was directed that it was his “duty” to take the specific US Air Flight 1123.
“I’m very happy with the trial so far,” Puckett told WND last night, though his client already had been convicted of three counts of disobeying orders.
Other observers in the courtroom were critical of Puckett’s strategy.
Orly Taitz, one of the attorneys spearheading the legal efforts to compel Obama to produce his birth and citizenship documents, criticized the strategy of conceding guilt on three charges.
“Even if you beat the fourth charge, what have you gained?” Taitz argued. “He’s still facing 18 months in prison, loss of retirement benefits and dismissal from the service.”
Taitz acknowledged that Puckett’s hands are tied by Lind’s earlier rulings effectively forbidding what might be the most effective line of defense, the argument that any order originating with Obama might in fact be illegal as long as Obama’s eligibility remains unproven.
“He’s reduced to arguing a technicality,” Taitz told WND. “The whole trial is a sham, a farce. They’re not allowed to discuss the only real issue here, Obama’s eligibility.”
Retired Navy Lt. Commander Charles Kerchner, the plaintiff in an eligibility suit recently rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, doubts that justice will be done in Lakin’s court martial.
“They have not allowed him discovery and exculpatory evidence, which the Constitution affords all of us,” said Kerchner. “I don’t know what legal rabbit [the defense is] going to pull out of a hat but they’re obviously planning something.”
Lakin’s brother, Dr. Greg Lakin, was more upbeat about Puckett’s defense strategy.
“[Puckett] wants to focus on the big issue here,” Greg Lakin told WND. According to Lakin, Puckett chose to concede the smaller matters in order to direct the court martial panel’s attention on the “missing movement” charge, which is most closely linked to Obama’s personal authority because it ties directly to the order to deploy to Iraq as part of Obama’s surge strategy.
“The president has taken full credit for the Afghanistan deployment, he signed the order,” said Greg Lakin. “Terry will have a chance to say his piece during the sentencing portion of the trial.”