Army doctor pleads guilty to three specifications in court-martial
December 15, 2010
FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service, Dec. 15, 2010) -- An Army doctor who refused direct orders by superior officers and said he would not deploy until he had proof that President Obama was American-born, plead guilty to one of two charges against him Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Terrence L. Lakin, a flight surgeon formerly assigned to the DiLorenzo Health Clinic at the Pentagon, entered a guilty plea for violation of article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The charge includes disobeying lawful orders, dereliction of duty and failing to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., for the purposes of deployment, offenses which took place between March 30 and April 12 of last year.
Lakin pleaded not guilty to an additional charge of violating article 87 of the UCMJ, missing his flight to Fort Campbell. Deliberations on this charge continue today.
Lakin now faces a maximum punishment of up to 18 months in prison, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and discharge from the Army.
"I had difficulty in delineating that we had a chain of command that was congruent all the way up to the commander in chief," Lakin said at the start of his Fort Meade court-martial hearing Tuesday. "I sought some proof of legitimacy."
During questioning by Army judge Col. Denise Lind, Lakin said he began his inquiry into the legitimacy of Obama's birth about two years ago. Lakin testified that he voiced his concerns to fellow officers and even filed two formal complaints -- UCMJ article 138's -- that were dismissed due to inaccuracy.
An Army memo presented in court provided a play-by-play of when Lakin first disobeyed orders from his superiors. The memo was written by Lt. Col. Teshai Crockett-Lynn, who first met with Lakin and his civilian attorney when Lakin's commander, Col. Gordon Roberts, wasn't available.
According to the memo, on March 30, Lakin informed Crockett-Lynn that since he did not trust the president's validity, he could not on good conscience continue to obey orders. Lakin also presented Crockett-Lynn with a letter he penned to Obama, which outlined his decision to disobey orders.
Lakin explained to Crockett-Lynn that all of his previous attempts to obtain information on the president's proof of birth were unsuccessful, and he felt that he had no other options.
Another officer, Lt. Col. William Judd, ordered Lakin to report the next day to the commander's office for counseling, but Lakin did not show up. The order was given both verbally and in writing, yet Lakin chose to disobey, missing two attempted meetings with his command. It was these incidences of disobeying direct orders that Lakin pled guilty to Tuesday.
Lakin was also issued a counseling statement March 31, which outlined the command's stance on his behavior, warning him that further disobedience could result in court-martial.
During the trial, Lakin testified that period was "a confusing and emotional time."
"I was doing a lot of praying and soul-searching," Lakin said solemnly. "I believe there was a valid question that needed to be asked in order for us to have a valid chain of command."
He told the judge that he sought council from both his military-appointed lawyer, Maj. Matthew Kemkes, and civilian attorney at the time, Paul Jensen on whether or not he should obey the orders. Both advised him not to do anything unlawful, yet he chose to disobey direct orders.
Lakin testified he now regrets that choice, yet said he still stands by his cause.
Then, on April 12, Lakin missed his scheduled US Airways flight which would take him to Fort Campbell, Ky., to prepare for a deployment to Afghanistan.
Lakin has said that he would willingly deploy if only Obama would provide an official copy of his birth certificate.
Deliberations continue Wednesday under an eight-member panel of Lakin's peers. A verdict on the second charge is expected to be reached by Thursday.