TAHLEQUAH — firstname.lastname@example.org
Dusten Brown, Cherokee citizen and biological father of Baby Veronica, turned himself in to Sequoyah County authorities Monday as a hearing was held in Cherokee Nation District Court about the disposition of his daughter’s adoption case.
A felony warrant for Brown was issued last week by a South Carolina court, accusing Brown of “custodial interference” after he failed to bring his 3-year-old daughter to South Carolina to begin a transition of custody to the adoptive parents.
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in July that baby Veronica will be adopted by Matt and Melanie Capobiano.
Brown took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the Indian Child Welfare act provided custodial rights to him. The court kicked the matter back to South Carolina, after which Brown petitioned for adoption.
Last week, the felony warrant was issued while Brown was attending U.S. Army National Guard duty in Iowa. Brown was subpoenaed to appear in tribal court Monday. Brown did not appear, and tribal officials worked quickly behind the scenes to find a venue where Brown could turn himself in on the warrant.
CN Attorney General Todd Hembree met with a Cherokee County judge early Monday morning at the Cherokee County Courthouse. Sources close to the situation said Brown was originally set to turn himself in to Cherokee County authorities, but one judge declined to oversee the case after meeting with Hembree and worrying about the “media circus” that would come with Brown’s surrender.
Hembree then left the Cherokee County Courthouse, appeared briefly at the Cherokee Nation courthouse, and left. About an hour later, Hembree surfaced with Brown, Brown’s wife Robin, Tahlequah bail bondsman Tom Barnard, and several Cherokee Nation marshals at the Sequoyah County Courthouse.
The group met with District Judge Jeff Payton, who allowed Brown to surrender himself and be released on $10,000 bond. Brown, his wife, and the CN entourage quickly left the courthouse in Cherokee Nation Marshals Service vehicles.
At about the same time, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo announced in Tahlequah that Brown had turned himself in, though the tribe would not reveal where Brown surrendered.
Brown refused extradition to South Carolina. He is set to appear back in court on Sept. 12.
Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart indicated he has talked with South Carolina authorities. A warrant is expected to be signed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, at which time Brown will be arrested and held in custody until South Carolina authorities can pick him up.
According to a report by the Associated Press, a spokesperson for Haley said the South Carolina governor is working closely with law enforcement, the solicitor’s office, the state of Oklahoma and the Capobianco family.
If Brown is to be extradicted to South Carolina, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin would have to OK the move, sources have said.
Custodial interference carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. South Carolina could also seek criminal charges against other members of the Brown family, including his wife.
No members of the Brown family were present at Monday’s tribal court hearing.
According to CN Communications Director Amanda Clinton, the hearing was called by Veronica’s court-appointed tribal attorney, Angel Smith. The hearing was closed and the transcript sealed.
CN officials indicated on Monday that Veronica is staying with her grandparents - the temporary legal guardians – at an undisclosed location.
A small group of Brown supporters gathered outside the tribal courthouse Monday.
“We’re standing our ground to support Dusten,” said Kathleen Wesho-Bauer. “Other family members should be able to step in. Nobody has the right to stop [Dusten] from seeking custody of his child. We talk all the time about men needing to step up and be fathers. Well, he’s stepping up and we support him.”
Staff Writer Josh Newton contributed to this report.