POSTED: Monday, June 27, 2011
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- 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 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.