FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) – A military jury is deliberating on a punishment for an Army doctor who disobeyed orders to deploy to Afghanistan because he questioned President Barack Obama’s eligibility to be commander in chief.
Military proceedings against Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin continued Thursday at Fort Meade in Maryland with the jury beginning deliberations after statements by Lakin’s attorney and a military prosecutor.
Lakin faces up to three years in a military prison and dismissal from the Army after being found guilty of missing a flight that would have gotten him to his eventual deployment and pleading guilty to disobeying orders.
In online videos posted on YouTube, Lakin aligned himself with the so-called “birther” movement, which questions whether Obama is a natural-born citizen as the Constitution requires for presidents. But Lakin now says that despite his questions he was wrong not to follow Army orders. He has acknowledged that the Army was the wrong place to raise his concerns and asked to keep his job.
On Thursday morning before the jury began deliberating, a military prosecutor asked the jury to sentence Lakin to at least two years in a military prison and to dismiss him from the service. It was a sentence he “invited and he earned,” military prosecutor Capt. Philip J. O’Beirne told the jury.
The prosecutor said Lakin had other options like resigning or asking not to be deployed if he had issues with his orders. Instead, he used his deployment earlier this year as a political ploy, O’Beirne said, going to great lengths to create a “spectacle” by informing people of what he was doing.
“He knew exactly what he was doing and he did it anyway,” O’Beirne told the jury, asking members to send a message with their sentence and telling them they could “write the headline” that appears in papers about Lakin.
But Lakin’s defense attorney, Neal Puckett, asked the jury to be lenient, calling Lakin’s case unique. He described the 17-year veteran as giving, compassionate and patriotic but also naive in trusting the poor advice of a previous civilian lawyer. He called Lakin the “victim of an obsession,” referring to questions about Obama’s eligibility, and said he made “one bad decision on one day of his career.”
Puckett asked the jury to consider Lakin’s wife and three children at Christmas and said he should be allowed to stay in the Army because of his value as a doctor.
“Make him work off his debt to the Army,” Puckett said, suggesting Lakin could be sent on multiple deployments.
An army commander, Maj. Gen. Karl Horst, still has to approve any sentence returned by the jury and has the option to reduce it. Lakin could then appeal.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)