Judge Lind was firmly in control of the courtroom throughout the proceedings.  She exuded judicial demeanor.  The trial counsel suggested a substantial amount of additional Care inquiry questions, and appeared concerned at one point that he might be suggesting too many.  Judge Lind responded, “Take your time.  It’s more important that we be accurate than that we be fast” — a sentiment she repeated later.

At one point when being questioned by Judge Lind about the legal advice Mr. Jensen gave, LTC  accepted responsibility for his actions rather than trying to foist it onto Mr. Jensen.  He said, “I understand that it was my decision and I made the wrong choice.”  He later reiterated, “I had to make a choice.  I chose incorrectly.”  LTC Lakin was very softspoken throughout the 90-minute Care inquiry and on three occasions his voice wavered.

The military judge announced findings on the four Article 92 specifications at the end of the providence inquiry.  When she asked the accused and counsel to rise, “Dr. Kate” — a prominent birther — rose in the audience and bowed her head (seemingly in prayer) as the guilty findings were announced.

The court-martial panel as finally seated includes five men and three women, all bird colonels.

Trial on the merits concerns just the missing movement offense.

In the case on the merits, an assistant trial counsel (I believe CPT Kobrenski) began his opening statement with something like:  “The 32nd Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division deployed without its surgeon.  The unit is still at FOB Bostick.  Its surgeon is here in court, LTC Terrence Lakin.”  He had several documents projected onto a wall during his opening statement, including LTC Lakin’s temporary change of station orders, the letter from COL Roberts ordering LTC Lakin to report to his office, and a counseling form that COL Roberts had served on LTC Lakin.

In his opening statement, Mr. Puckett said he agreed with “90 percent of what the prosecutor just told you,” but said it was irrelevant, arguing that the evidence the government discussed in its opening statement went to the orders violations that LTC Lakin had already pled guilty to rather than to the missing movement charge.  At one point, Judge Lind interrupted the opening (which included a fair amount of argument) to tell Mr. Puckett not to discuss the elements of the offense yet.  Mr. Puckett thereafter used the old TRIAD trick of prefacing everything he said with either, “The evidence will show” or “The evidence will not show,” and he got through the rest of the argument — er, opening — without being stopped again.  Mr. Puckett’s opening focused on just one thing:  whether LTC Lakin had a duty to be on the particular airline flight alleged in the order, USAirways Flight 1123 (I heard that number so much today I just typed it from memory without having to look it up in my notes or on the charge sheet) from BWI Airport on 12 April 2010.  Mr. Puckett told the members, “He’s already pled guilty to what he did.  He can’t plead guilty to what he didn’t do.”  And he argued — er, stated — that the evidence wouldn’t show that anyone had ordered LTC Lakin to be on Flight 1123.

The government presented six witnesses during its case-in-chief.  It then asked for, and received, judicial notice that the distance between the Pentagon and Fort Campbell is 722 miles.  The government then rested.  Trial will resume at 0900 tomorrow.

The government’s first witness was a major who served as the Medical Center’s Brigade S-3, who testified about e-mail exchanges with LTC Lakin to correct an error in his original orders to Fort Campbell and facilitate getting his corrected orders to him.  He also testified about the difficulty of getting a last-minute replacement for LTC Lakin when he didn’t obey his orders.  On cross, Mr. Puckett hammered the point that the major didn’t tell LTC Lakin to be on Flight 1123, LTC Lakin’s orders didn’t tell him to be on Flight 1123, and his orders allowed him to drive to Fort Campbell by POV.  On redirect, the government brought out testimony that the major had arranged for LTC Lakin’s gaining command to pick him up at the Nashville airport.

The next witness was a budget analyst from the Pentagon’s health clinic who took care of travel.  She testified that LTC Lakin chose the flight he wanted.  She then sent him e-mails at his government and personal accounts with his itinerary.  She confirmed that records showed he didn’t take his scheduled flight from BWI to Charlotte en route to Fort Campbell.  On cross, Mr. Puckett emphasized that she had not ordered LTC Lakinto take any particular flight.  He also brought out that if LTC Lakin had requested a different flight, she would have changed his flight.  She also testified that if his orders allowed him to drive to Fort Campbell, she would have cancelled the flight had he so requested. And there would have been no cost to the government because DOD used fully refundable tickets.  On redirect, the TC had the witness confirm that LTC Lakin never asked to change his flight. 

Then came testimony from LTC Judd, the acting commander of the Pentagon’s medical clinic on the crucial date of 31 March 2010.  LTC Judd testified about the counseling form that COL Roberts sent for LTC Lakin and indicated it directed him to comply with his TCS orders.  In the aggravation department, LTC Judd also testified that when LTC Lakin refused orders on 31 March 2010, he asked if he could still take his scheduled pre-deployment leave.  On cross, Mr. Puckett emphasized that the counseling sheet didn’t order LTC Lakin to be on USAirways flight 1123.  Nor did the counseling statement or the orders themselves direct LTC Lakin that he had to travel by air.  Nor did LTC Judd order him to be aboard flight 1123.

Then COL Roberts testified.  As Judge Mathews the Greatest wrote earlier, the highest impact moment of the day occurred during his testimony.  COL Roberts is such an impressive officer, he made the new Army dress uniform look good.  And he’s so modest that his lapel partially covered his Medal of Honor ribbon.  But I’m sure that every member realized that they were hearing from a Medal of Honor recipient.  COL Roberts testified that the response he received to his order for LTC Lakin to report to his office on 31 March 2010 was, “You had your chance” — an obvious reference to LTC Lakin’s and Mr. Jensen’s trip to COL Roberts’ office the previous day, when COL Roberts was unavailable so they met with his XO instead.  The TC conducting the direct skillfully looped the “You had your chance” answer into his next question on direct.  In another poignant moment, COL Roberts identified the specific doctor who deployed to Afghanistan to take LTC Lakin’s place:  MAJ Dobson.

33 Responses to “Lakin court-martial day one, part II”

  1. Phil Cave says:

    Major Dobson and his wife are anticipated sentencing witnesses based on the voir dire and witness list provided the court. Ooooops. Yep, I had a short fuze deployment . . . . Seems relevant under 1001.

  2. sg says:

    “COL Roberts is such an impressive officer, he made the new Army dress uniform look good.”
    That is impressive all by itself.

  3. Phil Cave says:

    Dwight, you might also mention how concerned LTC Lakin was in getting his predepolment leave — which he actually took — and also his concern about not being financially liable for refusing to deploy, etc. This guy was refusing pre-depoloyment orders and — yes — took his pre-deployment leave, that was the testimony. I had an impression of selfish and arrogant based on the testimony.

  4. Phil Cave says:

    SG, you are so right. LOL.

  5. Mike Dunford says:

    Phil:

    Would it be a safe bet that the trial counsel is going to ask MAJ Dobson how _his_ pre-deployment leave went?

  6. Spike says:

    You would think if deployment was unlawful based on the “illegal chain of command” bs that leave granted based upon such an order wouldn’t be allowed…just sayin

  7. Phil Cave says:

    Good question. That part isn’t clear. But it’s quite possible he didn’t get any because LTC Lakin used it all up. If he did get that leave two effects on the unit: they were deprived of the CONUS opportunity to meet with, connect with, and get to know the medical officer who would be caring for them, and they deployed sans medical officer for a period of time.

  8. Phil Cave says:

    OMg Spike. Are you saying that if there was no authority to order a deployment there was no authority to approve the leave that he took for the deployment he didn’t?

  9. Patriots Don't Run says:

    A lot of hot air from a lot of folks who have never set foot on hostile soil in uniform…just sayin’

  10. sg says:

    It’s a fair bet MAJ Dobson didn’t get much if any leave. With all the stuff that has to be done both individually and at the unit, I doubt he had time. Especially if his STX training was expired. He could have done it as catch-up, but then it’s likely that the unit deployed in theatre without him. Battalion/Squadron Surgeon is a critical position.

  11. Christopher Mathews says:

    Wow. He insisted on taking pre-deployment leave for a deployment he decided he wasn’t going to go on?

    I’m firmly convinced that members make two binary decisions before they get to sentencing. First, they decide whether or not the prosecution proved that the accused is guilty. Second, if there’s a finding of guilt, they decide whether they think the accused is an idiot or a jerk.

    You never, ever want the members to decide he’s a jerk.

  12. sg says:

    You are, no doubt, speaking of the birthers, “Patriots Don’t Run”, because most people here are deployment vets and a couple have multiple combat-arms tours downrange. And can prove it, and therefore don’t feel the need to engage in dick swinging…just sayin’.

  13. Mike Dunford says:

    There would probably also be a PA assigned, so the unit wouldn’t be completely screwed without a physician, but not having the doctor is definitely a bad thing. (At least in the opinion of my wife, who is a physician. The opinion of the PA in the office next to her varies a bit on that point.)

    I also just noticed the bit where you mentioned that Dobson’s wife is on the witness list. That could be interesting. I try to be a good military spouse, and I’m very supportive of my wife’s efforts to redeploy with her old unit next year. But when she came home from work a couple of months back and told me that there was a 50/50 chance she was going to be deployed on short notice to fill a hole that had just popped up, I basically blew my stack.

  14. Patriots Don't Run says:

    sg,

    Of course I was referring to the birthers. Calm down.

  15. Rob A says:

    COL Roberts,CMOH winner v LTC Lakin, soon to be, civilian convict… I think the panel will be very disrespected by Puckett’s petty yet possibly accurate line of defense on charge 1… Would a finding of not guilty on charge 1 make any difference with a guilty plea on charge 2???

  16. sg says:

    @Judge Mathews,
    As Col. Sullivan described his behavior, “LTC Lakin was very softspoken throughout the 90-minute Care inquiry and on three occasions his voice wavered.”
    If that behavior is on exhibit for the Members will it matter at all?

  17. Anonymous says:

    I already thought LTC(FN) Lakin was going to get a harsh sentence, now I think there’s a chance he could be maxed out.

    FN = for now.

  18. sg says:

    “Of course I was referring to the birthers. Calm down.”
    Fair enough. We get a lot of that nonsense around here. Sorry for the friendly fire.

  19. John O'Connor says:

    Let’s see: (1) smarting off to Medal of Honor winning commander; (2) I’m not deploying but I’ll take that pre-deployment leave; (3) uhh, I won’t be financially responsible if I blow off that flight, right?; and (4) wife on the stand whose husband deployed in Lakin’s stead.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the members ask the MJ to repeat the max punishment “just to be sure.”

  20. sg says:

    @John O’Connor,
    So you think that he’s hosed just based on what appears to be a crappy attitude about everyone around him?

  21. Christopher Mathews says:

    @Judge Mathews,
    As Col. Sullivan described his behavior, “LTC Lakin was very softspoken throughout the 90-minute Care inquiry and on three occasions his voice wavered.”
    If that behavior is on exhibit for the Members will it matter at all?

    Not much — unless they think he’s putting on an act, in which case it will hurt him badly.

  22. Charlie F. says:

    COL Roberts was with the 101st when he got his MOH for storming four MG bunkers. Lakin was supposed to deploy with the 32nd Cav, 101st. He’ll get what he’s earned.

    Hard to believe only one panel member was removed because he had pre-judged Lakin’s decision not to deploy. As my LT roommate pointed out, even the most die-hard Obama-citizenship-conspiracy-believing West Virginian she was hanging out with in Iraq would never have refused an order to deploy because of their personal belief.

  23. Rob A says:

    When is the big defense bombshell coming??? just sayin’

  24. Reality Check says:

    When is the big defense bombshell coming??? just sayin’

    I think it better be tomorrow – just sayin’.

  25. James M says:

    smarting off to Medal of Honor winning commande

    I want to chime in here to point out that people who receive the Medal of Honor rarely if ever refer to the award as “winning.” Reading the commendations and understanding what they did to earn that medal, it becomes tasteless to cheapen the honor by referring to it as some kind of prize or trophy.

  26. nbc says:

    As to no authority. Are you forgetting that the Government in WKA and the dissenting Judge both agreed on the natural born status?

    Logic and reason Mario. Simple logic and reason

    Citizens of the US include natural-born and natural-ized

    WKA could not be natural-ized thus was natural-born and thus a citizen of the US.

    QED

    Logic is so trivial when applied correctly. Let me know if you have any further questions.

  27. nbc says:

    Wrong thread

    –hides head in shame–

  28. sg says:

    Is that thread over 900 yet?

  29. Trevor says:

    Regarding James M’s comment,

    I had the honour recently of meeting L/Cpl Beharry who was awarded the Victoria Cross for heroism in Iraq (British equivalent of the CMOH), first living recipient in 40 years.

    A humble man and easily embarrased if asked about his actions.

    Two published quotes of his I believe are apposite for this type of individual and how they regard their acts and actions.

    “Maybe I was brave, I don’t know. At the time I was just doing the job, I didn’t have time for other thoughts.”—

    “Some days you’re the bug, some days you’re the windshield” (when talking about his second act of bravery in saving the crew of his APC after an RPG-7 exploded 6 inches from his head)

  30. John O'Connor says:

    You know, five minutes after I posted, I realized somebody was going to come on and castigate me for using the term “winning” to describe a recipient of a Medal of Honor, on a blog no less.

    So delete “winning” and insert “recipient” (even if the sentence is now grammatically awkward). Oh, and lighten up. I doubt an actual Medal of Honor recipient would be a tool to someone who innocentely (and with reverance) used the term “winning.”

  31. John O'Connor says:

    No, sg, Lakin is screwed because he refused to deploy. But lots of accuseds are screwed and don’t get maxed. Members don’t like to max out accuseds, they like to find some middle ground for a sentence. But if you have a “crappy attitude” you certainly help put the max punishment in play.

  32. James M says:

    You know, five minutes after I posted, I realized somebody was going to come on and castigate me for using the term “winning” to describe a recipient of a Medal of Honor, on a blog no less.

    I meant no disrespect whatsoever, and I did not even mean to direct my comment at anyone in particular. In the past few years I have heard the expression so many times, it has become disturbing.

  33. Ama Goste says:

    Anon 2117, officers can’t be reduced in rank via court-martial sentence, so he’ll still be an O-5 after the court.