FORT MEADE, Md. – Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin apologized today for forcing the Army to court-martial him over his attempt to compel President Barack Obama to prove his constitutional eligibility to serve as commander-in-chief.
Convicted on all four charges against him, Lakin told his court-martial panel he will no longer disobey orders and would resume his military career if the Army would let him.
“I am extremely sorry for everything that has come of this,” Lakin said in unsworn testimony during the sentencing phase of his trial. “As a military member, I was wrong.”
The doctor, who several witnesses testified has an exemplary service record, will be sentenced tomorrow.
Lakin faces as many as 42 months in prison, forfeiture of pay and retirement benefits and dismissal from the service after being convicted of four felonies. Lakin pleaded guilty to two counts of disobeying orders to report to his commanding officer and one count of failing to report to his new unit. The court-martial panel found him guilty of the most serious charge, missing the movement of an airplane that was to take him to his new post.
The panel is also free to give Lakin a lesser sentence, or no punishment at all.
“I didn’t want it to end this way,” said the 17-year veteran flight surgeon. “I want to continue to serve the military” by applying his extensive medical expertise to wounded soldiers on the battlefield.
Lakin sought for months to find out whether Obama is a natural-born citizen, the constitutional requirement for an American to serve as president. Both military and civilian authorities were unwilling to answer the question.
In April, Lakin refused to obey orders to report to the 101st Airborne Division shortly before the unit was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan. Lakin was concerned that the unit’s orders to join Obama’s surge might be illegal because of Obama’s uncertain eligibility to be president. He said today he preferred to resolve the eligibility question before being sent into a combat theater, to avoid disrupting a unit on the front lines.
Deprived by trial judge Col. Denise Lind of any opportunity to defend himself by introducing evidence or expert testimony, Lakin was reduced to pleading guilty on three charges of disobeying orders and mounting only a narrow, technical defense on the “missing movement” charge. Lakin’s attorney, Neal Puckett, tried in vain to persuade the court-martial panel to convict Lakin of a lesser charge.
“His attorney was reduced to a circus clown because [Lind] wouldn’t allow a meaningful defense,” said California attorney Orly Taitz, who has brought repeated cases challenging Obama’s eligibility before U. S. courts. “It’s a joke, just a farce.”
“The issue is very simple,” said New Jersey attorney William Baer. “What is the definition of ‘natural-born citizen’ and does Obama meet it? Nobody will let the question be asked.”
“The military wouldn’t let him have discovery, so he said ‘go ahead and put me in prison,’” said retired Navy Commander Charles F. Kerchner of Emmaus, Penn., the plaintiff in a case that recently went before the U.S. Supreme Court. “He’s a political prisoner.”
Kerchner and retired Army Capt. Pamela Barnett of Sacramento, who was a plaintiff in a case handled by Taitz, both said they attended the court martial to support Lakin. Kerchner and Barnett pointed out that they, like Lakin, have been denied justice by U.S. courts that refused to hear the merits of their cases against Obama.
“They took away every constitutional right Lakin has,” said Barnett. “The U.S. Supreme Court and the House of Representatives should address this stripping of an officer’s civil rights. A terrorist has more rights than Terry Lakin.”
During his statement, Lakin explained that he chose to disobey orders because of concerns that all military orders could be illegal when their authority is derived ultimately from a commander-in-chief whose legal eligibility to occupy the Oval Office remains unproven.
Now, however, Lakin says he agrees with the Army that orders given to him by his superior officers were valid in spite of Obama’s legal status.
Lakin backers traveled from all over the country to attend the court martial. At least three times they were cautioned by Lind to remain silent after erupting into applause for Lakin.
“I am angry about this,” said observer Dr. Catherine Vandemoer, a well-known blogger on eligibility issues who traveled from North Dakota to support Lakin. “The system has failed,” said Vandemoer, who writes the DrKatesView blog. “They crushed him, and the questions about Obama’s eligibility have still not been answered.”
Lakin’s defense has not yet announced whether they will appeal the verdict, but court observers contend that the verdicts should be appealed even though Lakin technically forfeited his right to appeal three of the convictions by pleading guilty.
“Lind denied Lakin discovery. She excluded all evidence about Obama’s eligibility because revealing the documents might prove ‘embarrassing’ to Obama,” said Vandemoer. “These would seem to be appealable items.”
“They should file a complaint for judicial misconduct,” said Taitz.
“He was placed under duress by Judge Lind,” added Barnett. “Lind should have recused herself. She’s biased, denying evidence against Obama because it might be ‘embarrassing.’”
Lakin’s commanding general, Maj. Gen. Karl Horst, has the authority to grant clemency to the surgeon. If Lakin is sentenced to more than one year in prison or is dismissed from the service, he will also receive an automatic appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, which could act effectively as a second jury and overturn his convictions.
If he loses an appeal at the ACCA level, Lakin can appeal again to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. If CAAF hears his appeal but denies it, Lakin could, in theory, appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rarely grants hearings to appeals from the military justice system.