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Army "Birther" Terrence Lakin Sentenced to Six Months in Military Jail

Army Birther Terrence Lakin Sentenced to Six Months in Military Jail
Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin (You Tube) You Tube

FORT MEADE, Md. (CBS/AP) Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin posted a video on YouTube earlier this year, declaring that he refused to be deployed to Afghanistan because he questioned the legitimacy of President Barack Obama's presidency - and now that decision will cost him six months in military jail and the loss of a nearly $90,000 annual salary and a pension.

In videos posted in April, Lakin aligned himself with the so-called "birther" movement that questions whether Mr. Obama is a natural-born citizen, as the Constitution requires the president to be, and said he was inviting his own court martial.

Lakin was convicted of disobeying orders - he had pleaded guilty to that count - and missing a flight that would have gotten him to his eventual deployment.

His stance made him a hero of the "birther" movement but it also created "a spectacle that has embarrassed the Army," government prosecutors argued in their closing statement, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Lakin testified Wednesday that despite his questions about Mr. Obama's eligibility for office, he was wrong not to follow Army orders. He acknowledged that the Army was the wrong place to raise his concerns about the president, asked to keep his job and said he was now willing to deploy.

Lakin's defense attorney, Neal Puckett, asked the jury to be lenient, calling Lakin's case unique. He described the 17-year veteran and Greeley, Colo. man as giving, compassionate and patriotic but also naive in trusting the poor advice of a previous civilian lawyer. He called Lakin the "victim of an obsession," referring to questions about Mr. Obama's eligibility, and said he made "one bad decision on one day of his career."

But prosecutors asked the jury to sentence Lakin to at least two years in a military prison and to dismiss him from the service. It was a sentence he "invited and he earned," military prosecutor Capt. Philip J. O'Beirne told the jury. "He knew exactly what he was doing and he did it anyway."

The military jury spent nearly five hours deliberating on Thursday after three days of court martial proceedings at Fort Meade, outside Baltimore. They decided on six months in military jail and dismissal from the Army.

Dismissal from the Army would prevent Lakin from serving the 20 years needed to qualify for his military pension.

An Army commander, Maj. Gen. Karl Horst, still has to approve the sentence. Upon approval of the sentence, Lakin is granted an automatic appeal that would be considered by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

He was to begin serving his sentence immediately.