Navy Guantanamo photographer freed pending trial

A federal magistrate ordered a veteran U.S. military combat photographer released from a federal detention center Friday, on condition he returns to court for next week’s federal passport fraud trial.

Navy Reserves Petty Officer Elisha Leo Dawkins, 26, had been held in a downtown federal lockup for six weeks. He was arrested in Jacksonville soon after he returned from a seven-month stint at Guantánamo, where he chronicled the lives of war on terror detainees.

Friday, Dawkins walked out of court in a tan federal detainee uniform identical to those worn by cooperative captives at Guantánamo. He stopped to tell a pair of reporters how grateful he was for support from friends, fellow service members and strangers — until his attorney whisked him away.

“I don’t think there’s any dispute that he’s a patriot,” said defense lawyer Clark Mervis, successfully arguing to remove the indigent veteran’s $10,000 bond requirement.

Replied Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff: “He takes good pictures, too.”

A strange case, Dawkins is charged with a single felony count of lying on a federal document, his 2006 passport application. In it, he swore that he had never before applied for a U.S. passport, although he filled out an application three years earlier.

Conviction could land him in federal prison for 10 years, and end his military career. He could also face deportation to the Bahamas.

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