By Jack Minor
The attorney for Lt. Col. Lakin, who is being court-martialed for disobeying orders, said his client felt he had no other alternative than to disobey orders after superiors repeatedly rebuffed his requests for guidance.
Retired Marine Corps Col. Neil Puckett, attorney for Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, spoke with the Gazette and explained his comment that he felt the judge’s ruling was correct when she denied his client the right to discovery, or witnesses testifying about President Obama’s eligibility. Lakin is formally charged with violating Articles 87 and 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for missing, “the movement of US Airways Flight 1123” for Afghanistan and failing to report “to the office of his Brigade Commander.”
Although Puckett was careful not to divulge any details of the type of defense he intends to present this week, he did provide some details regarding why Lakin took the course of action he did.
Puckett explained that while the eligibility issue is important, it is not related to the specific charges against his client. “If the answer to a question affects an issue in the case such as guilt or innocence,” then it is relevant. He went on to say that whether there is a valid birth certificate or not is not relevant to the issue of the court-martial.
Taking care not to say whether he believed the President was eligible or not; Puckett said, “It is not a fact that is relevant to those specific offenses. She was correct in her ruling in that the evidence sought was not relevant specifically to the charges in the court martial.” He went on to say that, “According to military law, commanders have their own authority to issue orders independently of the eligibility of those above them. If a brigade commander issued orders and his commander was found to be ineligible, it does not negate the brigade commander’s authority.
Puckett said that it was never Lt. Col. Lakin’s intent to flout authority; he simply had issues in his conscience about whether he could continue to validly serve if the Commander in Chief of the armed forces was not validly the Commander in Chief.
“From the beginning, Lt. Col Lakin has only sought to have his questions answered as to the President’s eligibility. Lakin asked the questions in writing, filing an Article 138 complaint, which is supposed to enable a way for soldiers to get answers to their issues. None of those methods got him any kind of answer to his question.” When he asked the Chief of Staff of the Army for assurance of the President’s eligibility, rather than receiving an answer, Lakin was told the chief of staff of the Army was not in his chain of command; “therefore, we cannot answer your question.” Puckett said this was interesting as in most offices or hallways there are photos of the chain of command and the army chief of staff is on that list.
Puckett said it is important to remember that Lakin is a doctor, not a lawyer.
“As a last resort, he took this position because he thought, ‘I’m not sure whether or not I am in a validly constituted armed force with a validly elected Commander-in-Chief, and I’m not sure whether I’m obligated to obey my orders to move to a new unit that is scheduled to deploy.’” Puckett said, “I don’t think it’s any more specific than that.” Puckett emphasized that Lakin sincerely appreciates all the support he has been given in his effort.
Puckett also said that Lakin has been saddened to learn the military justice system will not provide him any answers to his questions either. He explained that the questions that prompted the case are not going to be answered by the military justice system because it simply is not designed to do so.
“It is not capable of handling this. It exists solely to promote good order and discipline in the Armed forces. When orders are violated by soldiers, they are subject to disciplinary actions by the UCMJ. Beyond that, it’s not really a remedy for anything.”
Regarding Lakin’s actions he said, “Everything he did up to this point was within the regulations and they were supposed to address serious questions people have. No one answered his questions; they just rebuffed him.”
He said that with the restrictions placed on the type of defense that could be offered, conviction was almost a certainty, he denied that this is a vindication for those who feel that Obama has already proven his eligibility. “Whatever happens to Lt. Col. Lakin in the court martial will not resolve that ultimate question one way or the other.”