A court-martial panel (the military’s version of a jury) composed of commissioned officers sentenced Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Terrance Lakin to six months confinement and dismissal from the service. LTC Lakin made headlines earlier this year when he refused his deployment orders on the basis that President Obama had not proven his eligibility to serve as Commander-in-Chief, thereby invalidating any deployment orders.
He previously pleaded guilty on December 14th to Charge II, Violation of Article 92 of the UCMJ, which was composed of four separate specifications (known as “counts” in civilian terminology). The panel found him guilty of Charge I, Violation of Article 87 of the UCMJ on December 15th.
Article 87 of the UCMJ covers the offense of Missing Movement, while Article 92 covers Failure to Obey Orders as well as Dereliction of Duty. According to the Charge Sheet, the government charged LTC Lakin with missing the movement of US Airways Flight 1123 through design, and with four specifications of Article 92: two specifications for failing to obey an order to report to his Brigade Commander’s office, one to report to Fort Campbell, and the final one for being derelict in his duty to report to Fort Campbell. It is these charges and his sentence which I will discuss today.
Charge I, Violation of the UCMJ, Article 87
The actual text of the charge against LTC Lakin for violating Article 87, specifies that he missed his flight “through design,” which means “willfully and intentionally.” In order to secure a conviction against a Soldier for violating this Article, the government has to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:
- That the accused was required to move with a ship, aircraft or unit
- That the accused knew of the prospective movement of the ship, aircraft, or unit
- That the accused missed the movement of the ship, aircraft, or unit
- That the accused missed the movement through design or neglect
From my reading of the charge sheet (publicly available from scribd.com), LTC Lakin was scheduled to board US Airways Flight 1123 on April 12th; the government alleged that this was an intentional [through design] act. Earlier this year, LTC Lakin made public statements when he refused to deploy that supported the government’s allegation that he intentionally missed this flight.
This is the charge that LTC Lakin did not plead guilty to; his defense appeared to have rested on the issue of whether or not President Obama is qualified to serve as Commander-in-Chief. If the President is ineligible through birth to be the Commander-in-Chief, then LTC Lakin’s position was that the deployment order was illegal and therefore he should be found not guilty of Missing Movement. Unfortunately for LTC Lakin, the Judge did not allow the issue to be brought up in the court-martial; as a result, Charge I became a simple matter of “did he or did he not miss movement?” rather than a debate on the validity of that order.
He could have received up to two years confinement, dismissal, and a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances on conviction of this charge alone.
Charge II, Violation of the UCMJ, Article 92
There are four specifications listed under this charge on LTC Lakin’s charge sheet; three of them are for disobeying orders, and the fourth is for dereliction of duty.
- Specification 1: The government alleged that LTC Lakin disobeyed an order issued by a LTC Judd to report to his brigade commander’s officer (Colonel (COL) Roberts)
- Specification 2: The government alleged that LTC Lakin disobeyed an order issued by COL Roberts to report to COL Robert’s office.
- Specification 3: The government alleged that LTC Lakin disobeyed an order issed by a COL McHugh to report to Fort Campbell for deployment
- Specification 4: The government alleged that LTC Lakin was derelict in his duties by failing to report to Fort Campbell as ordered
Had LTC Lakin not pleaded guilty to Charge II, the government would have had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements in order to secure a conviction on the first three specifications:
- That a member of the Armed Forces issued a certain lawful order
- That the accused had knowledge of the order
- That the accused had a duty to obey the order
- That the accused failed to obey the order
On the specification of dereliction of duty, the government would have had to prove the following:
- That the accused had certain duties
- That the accused knew or reasonably should have known of the duties
- That the accused was willfully derelict in the performance of those duties
By pleading guilty to Charge II, LTC Lakin admitted that he met each of those elements, and that the government would be able to prove that he did beyond a reasonable doubt. The following are the maximum punishments allowable for these offenses:
- On each of the first three specifications: 6 months (18 months total) confinement and a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances
- On the dereliction of duty specification: 6 months confinement and a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances
Combined, he faced a total of two years in prison along with the total forfeiture of pay and allowances by pleading guilty to this charge. Once the panel convicted him of Charge I, he also faced a total of four years confinement, dismissal, and total forfeiture of pay and allowances. A dismissal is the equivalent of a Dishonorable Discharge for commissioned officers.
What the panel actually sentenced him to, six months confinement and a dismissal, is much more lenient than what he could have received. Of course, since the dismissal is equivalent to a Dishonorable Discharge, LTC Lakin will lose all of his military and veteran’s benefits. He will also face substantial prejudice in the civilian world when he starts looking for work.
I was not personally involved with this case, nor do I have any “inside knowledge” on it. All information in this post is based on publicly available information from the news media, LTC Lakin’s charge sheet from scribd.com, the Manual for Courts-Martial (2008 Edition), and my own experiences with being on the prosecution side of the house.