Tahlequah Daily Press

September 5, 2013

Veronica’s dad to be extradited

Fallin signs order to send Brown back to S.C.

By TEDDYE SNELL
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed the extradition order for Cherokee citizen Dusten Brown, the biological father of Veronica.

Brown is contesting Veronica’s adoption to a non-native South Carolina couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. Brown’s arguments have now been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as courts in South Carolina and Oklahoma.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley requested Brown’s extradition from Oklahoma to South Carolina Aug. 13. Brown, who has had custody of the child for two years, is facing charges of custodial interference in South Carolina.

Veronica is now in the custody of her biological grandparents, Alice and Tommy Brown. The extradition will not affect the child’s placement.

“My goal in the Baby Veronica case has been to encourage both Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family to reach a quick settlement and come to an agreement that protects Veronica’s best interests,” Fallin said in a written statement. “I said previously that I was willing to delay Mr. Brown’s extradition to South Carolina as long as all parties were working together in good faith to pursue such a settlement.”

Fallin’s parameters for “good faith” stipulated both the Browns and the Capobiancos would visit and see the child, and that both parties would pursue a resolution outside of court, as well as obey the courts and the law.

“Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith,” wrote Fallin. “He has disobeyed an Oklahoma court order to allow the Capobiancos to visit their adopted daughter and continues to deny visitation. He is acting in open violation of both Oklahoma and South Carolina courts, which have granted custody of Veronica to the Capobiancos. Finally, he has cut off negotiations with the Capobiancos and shown no interest in pursuing any other course than yet another lengthy legal battle.”

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Brown could not claim parental rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act and returned the custody case to South Carolina court. Shortly thereafter, the South Carolina court ruled the Capobiancos should be the rightful parents of Veronica, who was still living with her biological father in Nowata.

The case then went to Nowata, as the South Carolina case had to be “domesticated” by an Oklahoma court, and Nowata is the city of Brown’s residence. The South Carolina court also issued a warrant for Brown’s arrest for custodial interference.

Brown surrendered himself in Sequoyah County, where yet another hearing is set for Sept. 12.

At some point in the swiftly moving proceedings, Veronica began living with Brown’s parents on Indian trust land in Tahlequah, involving the Cherokee Nation District Court and the Cherokee County Court.

Cherokee County District Judge Holli Wells recused herself from the case, and it has apparently been reassigned to a judge in Muskogee County. Both the Browns and the Capobiancos appeared in Muskogee for a hearing Wednesday afternoon, just prior to Fallin’s signing the extradition order.

Muskogee County District Judge Tom Alford said he issued a writ of habeas corpus in the case.

“The writ essentially orders the child to the adoptive parents subject to what [the Oklahoma Supreme Court] does,” said Alford.

The judge also said any arguments regarding the validity of the adoption of the child in South Carolina should be “tried in that court, not here.”

Both parties are awaiting a ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

A gag order has been issued and the case records have been sealed, preventing any of the interested parties from speaking.

“As governor, I am committed to upholding the rule of law,” said Fallin.

“As a mother, I believe it is in the best interests of Veronica to help end this controversy and find her a permanent home. For both of these reasons, I have signed the extradition order to send Mr. Brown to South Carolina.”

According to Fallin’s spokesman Alex Weintz, Fallin expects Brown to turn himself in. If he doesn’t the Sequoyah County sheriff can make the arrest once he has a physical copy of the order, which is expected today.

An agreement between with the Cherokee Nation would allow Brown to be arrested on tribal land.

The Muskogee Phoenix contributed to this report.