FORT MEADE, Md. — Even if Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin can prove that the president isn’t an American citizen, the 17-year soldier will still be going to jail.
Lakin, an Army physician who refused deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year because he believes Barack Obama cannot legally be president, will face up to 18 months in prison and dismissal from the service after pleading guilty Tuesday to charges of refusing his immediate commanders’ orders during his protest of the president.
The guilty plea won’t erase Lakin’s bid to challenge the president’s legitimacy in court. Those charges dealt with secondary issues, not his direct refusal to deploy.
His attorneys were expected to challenge that issue later in the proceedings, although the military judge hearing the case already has placed tight restrictions on how far she’ll let them go.
Questions surrounding Obama’s citizenship were first raised during his presidential campaign, but put to rest shortly thereafter for all but a small fringe group that insists Hawaiian officials and Obama’s own people have covered up proof he was born in another country.
For these “birthers,” Lakin’s legal case has become their latest crusade. Supporters have raised money for his defense costs for months, and released numerous online videos featuring him which question whether Obama is a natural-born citizen, as the U.S. Constitution requires.
A group of about 30 birthers attended Tuesday’s hearing, handing out leaflets with a picture of Obama labeled “usurper” and “ineligible.”
At the hearing, Lakin told the court that he still believes that questions surround Obama’s presidency but that he should not have refused to meet with his superiors and report to Fort Campbell, Ky., while making his protest.
“I was praying and soul searching,” he said. “I believed there was a question that needs to be answered to ensure a valid chain of command. But I had asked every question, done everything else I could short of disobeying orders, without success.”
If convicted of the remaining charges, Lakin could face up to three years in prison.