POSTED: 10:24 a.m. HST, Dec 15, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 9:23 p.m. HST, Dec 15, 2010
FORT MEADE, Md. — An Army doctor who disobeyed orders to deploy to Afghanistan because he questioned President Barack Obama's eligibility to be commander in chief told a jury Wednesday he was wrong to do so and would now deploy if he could.
Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin of Greeley, Colo. was speaking during a court martial hearing Wednesday at Fort Meade.
He faces up to 3 1/2 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 to meet with a superior and to report to Fort Campbell in Kentucky. He asked the jury to let him remain in the Army when it decides his punishment, and jurors are expected to begin deliberating on his sentence on Thursday.
"I don't want it to end this way," said Lakin, a 17-year veteran of the Army. "I want to continue to serve."
Under questioning by his defense attorney, Neal Puckett, Lakin expressed remorse for disobeying orders. He said he now understands that the Army cannot answer his question about Obama's eligibility to be president and that it was not the appropriate place to raise the issue.
"I was wrong for trying to push this issue within the Army," he said.
In videos posted on YouTube earlier this year, Lakin aligned himself with the so-called "birther" movement, which questions whether Obama is a natural-born citizen as the U.S. Constitution requires for presidents. Lakin had said he would "gladly deploy" if Obama's original birth certificate were released and proved authentic.
On Wednesday, however, Lakin reversed course, saying he would now deploy even with his question unanswered. Puckett asked him why.
"That's my duty. It's what I've trained for. I'm in the Army," he replied.
"Are we done disobeying orders, Lt. Col. Lakin?" his attorney asked him.
"Yes," Lakin replied.
Lakin explained that he tried for two years to figure out to whom in the Army he could raise his questions about Obama's eligibility but that he was not given guidance what he should do. He acknowledged he used his deployment as a way to raise the issue and that he knew when he disobeyed orders that his "career was over."
Also Wednesday the jury heard testimony from two men who had served with Lakin. They described him as a compassionate physician, someone who gave therapeutic massages to soldiers on his own time and who always volunteered to help out. But military prosecutors also put on the stand the doctor that was sent to Afghanistan in Lakin's place as well as his wife, also a doctor with the military. They testified about the last-minute nature of the deployment and how it affected their lives.
A number of supporters who have been present throughout the court martial, which began Tuesday, said they were disappointed with the court martial and the fact that a military judge refused to let Lakin present evidence about Obama's birth certificate during it, an order she gave in September. But after testimony Wednesday they said they continued to support Lakin.
Kate Vandemoer of North Dakota said Lakin "took a very dangerous step" when he disobeyed orders and said she hopes his current defense works for him. Another supporter, Rudy Davis of Texas, said that even if Lakin does nothing else he has "done more than anyone else in this country" to ask questions about Obama's eligibility to be president.
Officials in Hawaii say they have seen and verified Obama's original 1961 birth certificate, which is on record with that state. But birthers have not been satisfied with that assurance or the "Certification of Live Birth" Obama has released. The certification is a digital document that is a record of a person's birth in the state, but the certificate does not list the name of the hospital where Obama's mother gave birth or the physician who delivered him.