Army surgeon on trial for refusing to deploy over Obama's birthplace

Lakin appears before Fort Meade court, says he had 'no choice' but to disobey

December 14, 2010|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Terrence Lakin is one of the fervent band of Americans who doubt that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.

The catch is that Lakin is an Army lieutenant colonel who refused to report for deployment to Afghanistan because he questions Obama's credentials to serve as commander in chief.

Lakin, a flight surgeon, pleaded guilty before a military court at Fort Meade on Tuesday to a charge that included not meeting with a superior when ordered to do so and not reporting to duty at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. The 18-year veteran faces up to 18 months in prison and dismissal from the Army.

Lakin pleaded not guilty to a second charge of missing a flight he was required to be on, and the court-martial continued on that count. If convicted of all the charges against him, the Colorado native could face more than three and a half years in prison. The court-martial is expected to continue Wednesday and possibly Thursday.

In videos posted on YouTube, Lakin said he had "no choice" but to disobey orders. Lakin said he would deploy if Obama's original birth certificate were released and proved authentic.

Lakin's stance, made public when he refused to report in April, has made him a hero to the "birther" movement. Birthers say Obama, the first African-American president, was not born in Honolulu in August 1961, and so fails to meet the constitutional requirement that the president be a "natural born citizen."

Hawaii officials say they have verified Obama's original 1961 birth certificate, and both of Honolulu's major newspapers published news of his birth.

Obama has released a digital certification of live birth confirming his birth in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961. Hawaii officials will not release a certified birth certificate to anyone who does not have a "tangible interest."

The birther movement surfaced during Obama's 2008 campaign for president, and adherents have continued to raise questions about his eligibility to serve. A CNN poll this summer found that 27 percent of Americans doubt or deny that Obama is American-born. Recently, Orioles outfielder Luke Scott made headlines by questioning Obama's place of birth.

In September, a military judge ruled that the president's birth certificate is irrelevant to Lakin's case. That means his civilian lawyer, Neal Puckett, will be unable to use questions about Obama's birth certificate as part of Lakin's defense.

A Fort Meade spokeswoman said the Maryland base was chosen as the trial site for logistical reasons, not because of any connection to Lakin.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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