LTC Lakin delivered his unsworn statement in question-and-answer format while sitting on the witness stand. It would last for more than an hour. He would ultimately cry, with Neal Puckett repeatedly prodding him in what looked like an effort to get the tears flowing. During the unsworn, LTC Lakin would also express a willingness and desire to deploy tomorrow.
The unsworn began innocently enough, with LTC Lakin stating he was born in 1965 in Greeley, Colorado, a small town in rural northeast Colorado. He talked about the school that he attended, going to Colorado College, taking a year off to become an EMT and a 9-1-1 dispatcher, going back to college, and ultimately going to medical school. He attended medical school on a complete Army scholarship.
He referred to his parents and two brothers who were there, noting that his parents were elderly and had medical issues. His wife and children remained conspicuous by their absence.
He was commissioned in 1993. He talked about his internship. He talked about meeting his wife while they were in medical school and falling in love, though they hardly saw each other when they were interns.
He discussed his practice of family medicine, which he characterized as his “true love.” He discussed serving as a flight surgeon in Honduras. He talked about saving two lives with his “quick diagnosis,” which his back-up second guessed. He wanted to leave the Army for civilian practice to be with his wife, but the Army wouldn’t release him, so he went to Germany. From there he went into Bosnia, where he became a brigade flight surgeon following the relief for misconduct of the previous brigade flight surgeon. He and one other flight surgeon cared for 1,700 Soldiers on their base. He then talked about becoming certified in occupational medicine during a one-year program at Bethesda.
He then discussed his wife again. The defense used an Elmo to display a huge picture of LTC Lakin, his wife, and their three children on the wall across from the members. That picture would remain up for the remainder of the unsworn statement. When a photo of LTC Lakin’s wife was first displayed, several of the members turned to the audience and appeared to scan the crowd — looking, I assume, for LTC Lakin’s wife. He said she was a specialist in internal medicine, but after they had their first child, she gave up practicing to be a stay-at-home mom. He then spoke lovingly about his 11-year-old daughter, 8-year-old son, and 3-year-old son.
LTC Lakin continued that he became the chief of primary care at the Pentagon’s clinic in July 2009. Mr. Puckett then observed that the purpose of the hearing was for the members to determine an appropriate sentence. He then discussed the origins of LTC Lakin’s offenses.
He testified that he started to have concerns about the Constitution during the primary elections, when he was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. He learned that there was controversy as to the natural-born-citizen status of both major political parties’ general election candidates. He said Senator McCain provided everything he could to address his status, including a birth certificate with the doctor’s name and hospital’s name. He compared that with the lack of scrutiny that Senator Obama received. He had questions about the image of a certificate of live birth on the Internet and relatives stating they were present at his birth in Kenya. He said he had an open mind, but he was skeptical. One candidate went through scrutiny, but there was a lack of information as to the other.
Mr. Puckett pressed, “Why were you so interested in this?” I think he expected the answer to be because of the oath of office, but LTC Lakin instead gave an answer about reading newspapers. LTC Lakin testified that after the election, he became “extremely concerned.” He said the issue wasn’t about politics or anything else (probably an implicit denial of racism) but the Supreme Law of the Land. He stated that he “wanted a valid Commander-in-Chief.” He testified that after the election, he was no longer comfortable with being selected for deployment. He was “concerned that the Constitution wasn’t being followed.” He believes his “oath as an officer is to protect and defend the Constitution.” He believed questions about the President’s eligibility “may weaken the Constitution.” He said he doesn’t know if the President is ineligible and he doesn’t believe that anyone can know.
Neal Puckett asked, “What did you do as a soldier.” LTC Lakin said his “sought out advice” from his command and from his friends. He contacted legal assistance at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, who said they would research the issue and get back to him, but then they would never return his calls. He talked to his commander and supervisor who said there was an issue and there were questions, but they did not know what to do to answer them. He then filed an Article 138 complaint. He was asking, “Please, someone in my command, tell me there’s not an issue about illegal orders.” He submitted the Article 138 complaint to his company commander and asked him to forward it. The reply he received back was that his Article 138 complaint was deficient, so the Army didn’t have to answer it.
LTC Lakin then wrote letters to his two Senators and Congressman. One Senator didn’t reply. One said the issue had been raised “and Twittered about and been found not to be an issue.” His Congressman forwarded his letter to Military Affairs.
He continued to “pursue what else I could do.” When he was transferred to the Pentagon, he raised the issue with his clinic’s commander. He “acknowledged concern” but had no guidance as to what to do. LTC Lakin then submitted another Article 138 complaint, this one routed through General Casey. (BTW, it would later come out that he was referred to Paul Rolf Jensen while he was at Aberdeen Providing Ground, so it seems likely that he was working with Mr. Jensen at the time he filed this Article 138 complaint.) The response he received back was that General Casey wasn’t in his chain of command, so his Article 138 complaint wouldn’t be addressed.
LTC Lakin then became aware he was “on the short-list for deployment. This greatly concerned me.” He went to Capitol Hill for face-to-face meetings with one Congressman and high-level staffers. He was told that the issue was a concern, but the media ridiculed it, so they let it go.
He was advised to go to Afghanistan and then raise the issue while he was on deployment. He considered this a “worse” option. He said it would be “extremely wrong to raise this in a combat zone.”
Mr. Puckett asked, “You thought if the Commander-in-Chief wasn’t eligible, you thought your deployment order might retroactively be considered an illegal order.” LTC Lakin agreed.
Mr. Puckett asked when LTC Lakin first sought the advice of an attorney. He answered that it was two-and-a-half years ago. He was the leader of an intermediate level school small group. There were JAGs in the group. He discussed his concerns with the JAGs and asked what he should do. One of the JAGs referred him to Paul Jensen and LTC Lakin called him. He said he “ultimately hired” Mr. Jensen.
He then testified about receiving his deployment orders. At the bottom of the orders, it said he had to bring a copy of his birth certificate. He said, “I thought, there’s an issue here.” That was followed first by laughter from the birthers in the audience, and then by applause, bring another sharp, “Members of the gallery!” from Judge Lind.
He said that in March 2010, he turned to Mr. Jensen for legal advice. When asked about Mr. Jensen’s advice, LTC Lakin replied, “There’s a Kenyan birth certificate.” He said that on Mr. Jensen’s advice, he decided not to deploy. Mr. Puckett then asked, “Who made the decision to say to your command, ‘I’ll deploy if the President shows he’s eligible?'” LTC Lakin said he did. Mr. Puckett asked, “Whose fault was it?” LTC Lakin replied, “Mine.” Mr. Puckett asked, “Whose responsibility was it?” LTC Lakin answered, “Mine.” Mr. Puckett elicited LTC Lakin’s response that he didn’t think his orders were illegal, but he “still thought there was a constitutional issue.”
He agreed with Mr. Puckett that he used his deployment orders as a vehicle to increase the level of attention that the issue would receive. He confirmed that there were “lots of people urging you to stick to your guns.” In a reply likely to hurt him with the members, he answered: “Yes, including enlisted members and officer members.”