Neal Puckett, LTC Lakin’s new civilian defense counsel, has publicly renounced a birther defense for LTC Lakin.  And, interestingly enough, he did so during an interview with the WorldNetDaily–birtherism’s official in-house electronic newsrag.

In an article dated 2204 last night, WND’s Bob Unruh quotes from an interview with Mr. Puckett.  The article’s lead reports that LTC Lakin’s trial has been moved to 14 December.  A few paragraphs down, Mr. Unruh drops a bombshell in uncharacteristically understated fashion:  

Puckett confirmed that the judge in the case, Denise Lind, “rendered the proper legal ruling” regarding access to Obama’s birth and eligibility evidence.

“She was right on the facts and right on the law,” he told WND.

He hinted about his plan of defense.

“All those issues concerning the president’s eligibility to hold office are completely irrelevant as to whether Lt. Col. Lakin was issued lawful orders and whether he obeyed them,” he said.

Having thus reported that the Lakin defense has renounced birtherism — and even proclaimed Judge Lind’s ruling to be correct — Mr. Unruh then moves on to regurgitating previous reporting spouting the birther gospel.  The three paragraphs immediately following Mr. Puckett’s renunciation of a birther defense read:

Officials with the United States Patriot Union earlier told WND the officer’s arguments needed to go beyond the quest for the president’s original birth certificate because that would reveal only some of the evidence needed.

The group, which says it linked Lakin up with Puckett, contends the unveiling of the president’s birth certificate would prove one of two things: he was a dual citizen or there has been “the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people.”

He reported the union also is putting together an “A Team” of expert legal counselors to support Puckett and Lakin.

So Mr. Unruh reports that Mr. Puckett has renounced a birther defense and then casually mentions that a group of ultra-birther Vattel enthusiasts played yenta for LTC Lakin and Mr. Puckett.  But Mr. Unruh writes nothing to suggest the tension between those facts.  Nor does Mr. Unruh resolve the apparent conflict between Mr. Puckett renouncing a birther defense and the Vattel-promoting group pulling together a team of “expert legal counselors” to support LTC Lakin’s defense.

The article also quotes Mr. Puckett saying “the case is going to be handled differently from here on out,” and that “‘all possible courses of action’ will be reviewed within the military justice system.” 

The decision by Major General Vallely’s recommended choice of counsel for LTC Lakin to renounce a birther defense and proclaim Judge Lind’s ruling correct is big news.  But its implications seem to have somehow escaped the WorldNetDaily, which generally deals with any perceived departure from birther orthodoxy with cries of “treason.”  Does Mr. Unruh not understand Mr. Puckett was saying?

It will be intersting to follow how Birtherstani reacts to Mr. Puckett’s wise change of direction in the Lakin case and how LTC Lakin’s former boosters treat him now that he has apparently climbed off the alter, refusing to continue his role as birtherism’s sacrificial mule.

h/t Rickey in the comments to a post below for noting the WND article.

23 Responses to “Speaking the truth to guano”

  1. Dave says:

    My take on the article is that Unruh understands perfectly well what Puckett is saying, but he also understand very well the capacity of his readership to put together 1 + 1 and get a million.

    Unruh repeats the claim that Vallely arranged this new lawyer. He also repeats the fact that Vallely’s gang were critical of Jensen, and strongly suggested a new direction (which was to claim that the President must have two citizen parents). He quotes Puckett saying things are going to go in a new direction. At this point, all the readership has to do is ignore the line about the President’s eligibility having nothing to do with this case. Unruh knows his readers are entirely capable of that.

    And there we go. An article about this case no longer being about birtherism is magically transformed into an article about this case still being about birtherism.

  2. Michael K says:

    I’ll go ahead and ask the obvious question: Now that the “birther defense” is gone, why didn’t LTC Lakin deploy?

    Is this where we find out about his alarm clock malfunction? I was sure the records was clear on why he never got on the plane. I know nobody reads WorldNetDaily, but golly we still have and about 100,000 posts from CAAFLog. I wish all parties the best of luck. I really like that the legal team will be complimented by an “A Team”

  3. soonergrunt says:

    So when Mr. Puckett says that ”‘all possible courses of action’ will be reviewed within the military justice system,” does that mean that a plea bargain is more likely? I mean from what I’ve seen here, I can’t imagine a Defense Counsel letting this get to a Court Martial without taking every available opportunity to head it off at the pass first. I’ve gotten the impression from you all that LTC Lakin is pretty much toast the moment the Judge enters the court room.

  4. Dwight Sullivan says:

    soonergrunt — right you are. That sounds like lawyerspeak for “let’s see if we can make this go away without a court-martial and, if not, let’s see what kind of PTA we might be able to get.”

  5. Anonymous says:

    To have been a fly on the wall in the first conversation between Mr. Puckett and Lakin. Does Mr. Puckett handle plaintiff’s work in legal malpractice cases, as well? Maybe he should consider getting into the business. He has a real nice case against Lakin’s previous defense attorney.

  6. Anonymous says:

    the paths are both narrow and obvious.

    A. Try and get alternate disposition that isn’t a C-M. Unlikely but it’s the best possible resolution.

    B. Get the best deal possible and tell the court he was duped by other people into believing he was acting lawfully and honorably.

    I believe his best shot with B is with a panel. Judge Lind will be very nice and very professional and then when giving the sentence hammer him like John Henry building a railroad.

    No way she buys that argument, but a panel of the right folks has a teeny tiny better chance of doing so enough to maybe avoid significant jail time.

    Would take a SERIOUS kick-butt sentencing statement/uber-apology from LTC Lakin though. Better get those tear ducts checked out LTC Lakin, and make sure they are serviceable.

  7. soonergrunt says:

    Thank you, Sir.
    This depresses me. Not because the circus is almost over but because it happened at all.
    This officer, esteemed by his colleagues, decorated for previous acts, pretty close to retirement eligibility after a successful career, to say nothing of having been previously selected for higher rank and responsibility with the potential for higher advancement–he threw it all away for some craziness that a half-way competent military lawyer could’ve warned him off had he listened. Hell, a dumbass grunt like me would’ve warned him off.
    Now his career is over, his pension is gone, most of his friends in the service have most likely deserted him because nobody wants part of this action and a lot of them are no doubt pissed at him, another doctor is in Afghanistan on a short notice deployment with all of that life disruption, and for what?
    What did anyone with any sense or understanding of the Army think was going to happen?

  8. John O'Connor says:

    If no deal is forthcoming, it’s an interesting question whether you go members or judge. The judge is more predictable, for good or for bad. You know it’s 100% certain he gets a dismissal from a judge.

    Members, they could go for the “look how much a dismissal costs,” and could fall for the promise to deploy if retained (when he’d be adsepped and not deployed if he didn;t get a dismissal). You also could possibly talk them into just a dismissal on the argument that a dismissal is a really serious punishment. On the other hand, a TC could possibly get a panel to put a really big number up on the board in terms of confinement.

    Interesting choices.

  9. Tami says:


    The military justice system encompasses more than just courts-martial–also includes nonjudicial punishment and adverse administrative actions (like a separation for misconduct, reprimand filed in official file). I agree that either of these alternatives seem HIGHLY unlikely, but I think defense counsel would be remiss if they didn’t explore these other options and at least try to convince gov’t to resolve via alternate disposition.

  10. Norbrook says:

    What complicates Mr. Puckett’s exploration of the other options is that his client has, up until he came on-board, been highly public about what he was doing, and why. This is not calculated to make the TC (or the Army) willing to discuss a deal where LTC Lakin goes quietly into the night.

    Adding to that consideration, from the Army’s standpoint, is that LTC Lakin is not the first one to try this, although he is the first to do it in the military justice system. The civilian courts dismissed the cases because they were mooted or because of lack of standing, and the Army mostly let it go at that. I’m sure that there’s an element of “enough of this crap” in the Army’s stance on this. Which is not a good thing for LTC Lakin.

  11. Patrick McKinnion says:

    Yeah, about that “legal A Team” Vallely and buddies about putting together. What top legal minds are they thinking?

    Pidgeon, Taitz, Martin, Berg, Donofrio, Apuzzo, and who else?? Well, maybe Walter Fitzpatrick as a consultant, due to his familiarity with (and interesting take on) military law.

  12. Greg says:

    The (overly-long) WorldNetDaily article follows the usual format: about 10% new content and 90% recycled agitprop.

  13. Rob M says:

    I agree. After all the unprompted public displays of his intentions, I don’t see the convening authority saying “Well, we’ve already wasted enough time on this guy, let’s just get rid of him and be done with it.” I don’t think they’ll take a quick and dirty resignation ILO trial or even a plea deal that does anything less than crush him.

  14. Snuffy says:

    If I was the Convening Authority (or more likely, his SJA) I would say sure- now are you gonna submit your resignation dufus? Move to process it with an OTH and move on. Knucklehead is not worth wasting any more time on- in this way I would demonstrate my disdain.

  15. Peanut Gallery says:

    JOC – You said “The judge is more predictable, for good or for bad. You know it’s 100% certain he gets a dismissal from a judge.” Well I for one do not share your opinion. I have no idea what Judge Lind would do and your bold conclusory statement is disconcerting. I fully suspect she has no track record in other senior officer cases under these same or similar facts. I do not forsee a dismissal as a foregone conclusion with a judge. Sadly, many counsel make the same error and roll the dice thinking they “know” what a judge is going to do.

  16. Greg says:

    JOC – You said “The judge is more predictable, for good or for bad. You know it’s 100% certain he gets a dismissal from a judge.” Well I for one do not share your opinion. I have no idea what Judge Lind would do… I do not forsee a dismissal as a foregone conclusion with a judge. Sadly, many counsel make the same error and roll the dice thinking they “know” what a judge is going to do.

    Good judges are consistent in their sentencing. And – by all accounts – Judge Lind is a “hammer” in sentencing. Therefore it would be unwise for any defense attorney to assume that she might be uncharacteristically lenient when it comes to sentencing their client. Furthermore, a defense attorney has to assume the worst outcome from a trial (especially when a conviction is a certainty) – otherwise there would be little incentive for defense attorneys to negotiate a deal in the first place.

    Going with a panel might be less predictable than the Judge, but the sentence decided upon might not be any less harsh. It’s quite conceivable that each member of a panel – not wishing to appear sympathetic towards Lakin’s motives – could well try to outdo the other members in the severity of the sentence imposed.

    So whether sentenced by judge or by panel, Lakin really has no dice to roll.

  17. Christopher Mathews says:

    PG, John may have exaggerated for effect when he said “it’s 100% certain,” but I think you’re engaging in comparable hyperbole when you claim you “have no idea” what the judge would do.

    Unless John is possessed of predictive powers beyond the ken of mortal men — in which case I can get a great gig for him here in Vegas — he is not literally 100% sure of the outcome. And unless you are exceptionally dim, you are not literally bereft of any idea what the judge would do in a bench trial, either.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Judge Lind has a very long history of being a judge and a very consistent track record.

    She will be polite, respectful to counsel and accused, and thorough in her providency questioning, and then she will absolutely hammer the accused with a sentence that most of the time makes you glad you got a deal.

    From a defense-minded person like me that doesn’t make her a “bad judge.” You know what you are likely to get and can plan for it accordingly.
    But yes, JOC is able to be 95% sure that he gets a dismissal from Judge Lind, not only because of her reputation but because I don’t think any of us can possibly imagine ANY military judge not doing so, even the “softies.”

  19. Norbrook says:

    Snuffy said:

    If I was the Convening Authority (or more likely, his SJA) I would say sure- now are you gonna submit your resignation dufus? Move to process it with an OTH and move on.Knucklehead is not worth wasting any more time on- in this way I would demonstrate my disdain.

    I’m sure from Mr. Puckett’s perspective, this would be an optimal outcome for LTC Lakin. I’m not quite so sure that the Convening Authority and in particular, his SJA would see it that way.

    So far, in federal courts, the Army has had the cases of Cook, dismissed as moot because his receiving command decided that they didn’t need him; and Rhodes, dismissed after she decided that she’d really rather deploy. There’s also the Barnett case, dismissed due to lack of standing, which involved military personnel.

    So far, the Army has been able to let it go, because none of the soldiers involved technically disobeyed orders or failed to deploy. LTC Lakin not only had the same reasons, but did fail to obey lawful orders and missed movement preparatory to deployment. That puts him at number one in terms of candidates to send a message that enough is enough. Considering that he has made a number of public statements and appearances on national television, it’s not something to make a CA likely to “cut a deal” on.

  20. Rob M says:

    I also think that if the Army lets him walk away now, the birther crowd would feel vindicated, something along the lines of “see, they knew they couldn’t get him at trial, so they just pushed him out the back door and said ‘don’t make any more trouble for us!'” I don’t think the Army would particularly care what the birthers’ reaction would be, but it’s important to send a message.

    At the risk of more flak for making another Watada comparison, after his mistrial the anti-war crowd said effectively the same thing, “see, it shows they know their arguments for their illegal war wouldn’t hold up in Court.” Like you said, after all these cases where officers publicly take blatantly insubordinate positions and engage in outright political partisanship and get away with it, the Army’s probably ready to say enough is enough.

  21. soonergrunt says:

    The anti-war crowd wasn’t also calling for a military coup against the President. That’s a little bit different.

  22. Reality Check says:

    chinacreekpj at The Fogbow has found this interesting tidbit posted on the Puckett & Faraj site concerning the Lakin case:

    “His previous civilian attorney complicated his case and is partially responsible for two of these charges by advising LTC Lakin to refuse to report to his superior officer. The defense team is now working to minimize the damage caused by this inappropriate legal advice and return LTC Lakin to his family quickly and with his medical career intact.

    The trial is expected to last 2 days at Fort Meade beginning on December 14, 2010.”

    Is this the first sign of the TMLUTB defense?