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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vet Checks Wrong Box, Faces Charges

Army, Navy Photographer Accused Of Passport Fraud

POSTED: Monday, June 27, 2011
UPDATED: 7:35 pm EDT June 27, 2011
news4jax.com

Elisha Dawkins graduated in August from nursing school in Jacksonville.
He put on hold his plans for taking the board exams because the Navy called him into action as a photographer.
Dawkins photographed happenings at Guantanamo Bay, an act that's evidence he's a trusted member of the military with top secret clearance.
Now, Dawkins, a Navy reservist and decorated Army combat photographer who served in Iraq, is in jail, charged with passport fraud. He's facing 10 years in prison for what could be a simple misunderstanding.
"Suddenly, he's picked up and thrown in jail? Then it's time for this senator to start asking questions," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson., D-Fla., said.
Nelson has questions echoed by Dawkins' friends, including Dianne Rinehardt.
Elisha Dawkins
Elisha Dawkins served with the Army in Iraq.
"It's a travesty, and we're trying to stop it," Rinehardt said.
Rinehardt went through nursing school with Dawkins and is a veteran herself. She's upset about the trouble her friend is in. In sharing his story with other vets, Rinehardt said that lots of people who don't know Dawkins can't believe it.
"We're all appalled that, how can you serve this country and be more dedicated to the ideals of this country, and serve this country and then be told, 'Guess what, you made a little clerical error. You're out of here.' And that's a travesty," Rinehardt said.
A federal indictment states that Dawkins started to fill out a passport application in 2004, didn't complete it, then filled out a new application two years later.
On that new application, he checked a box "no" for the question, "Have you ever applied before?" according to the indictment.
Dawkins got the passport, but three months ago, the government issued a warrant for his arrest. He was taking photos for the Navy at the time.
When Dawkins got back to the U.S. in April, he was arrested about a week later and has been in jail for two months since.
"The state department is implying there's something more. I want to know, and that's why I've written them," Nelson said.
"We've sent emails through our standard home, family email chains throughout the country," Rinehardt said. "The more attention we bring to this, the more people will see this as a disservice."
Dawkins' attorney calls the case an "absurd prosecution," saying that filling out a "no" box "did not merit criminal charges."
Because the trial is scheduled for next month, if Dawkins is still in jail at that point, he will insist on going to trial.
A pretrial hearing Tuesday in Miami is the next step.

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