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Oklahoma orders extradition of birth father in Native American child custody dispute

South Carolina governor asked Oklahoma Supreme Court to return child

Christopher Laible and Randi Kaye | 9/5/2013, 10:24 a.m.
The high-profile case of a girl adopted by a South Carolina couple is moving toward another legal showdown after Oklahoma's ...
Veronica Rose Capobianco, also known as "Baby Veronica," is in the middle of a custody dispute. She was adopted by a South Carolina couple, and her biological father Dusten Brown is accused of custodial interference. Courtesy Capobianco Family

— The high-profile case of a girl adopted by a South Carolina couple is moving toward another legal showdown after Oklahoma's governor ordered the extradition of the girl's biological Native American father, who is accused of custodial interference.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday ordered that Dusten Brown be extradited to South Carolina after she became convinced that the father disobeyed an Oklahoma court order to allow the adoptive couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, to visit Veronica, 4.

"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," the governor said in a 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 said. "Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith."

But Brown's attorneys told CNN that they will challenge the extradition order at a hearing scheduled for September 12. They claim their client did not break a law in the ongoing custody dispute.

In June, a divided U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Capobiancos, who are white, when Brown sought to assert his parental rights. They had legally adopted her when Veronica was a baby.

The justices said the adoption was proper and did not intrude on the federal rights of the father, a registered member of the Cherokee tribe, over where his daughter would live.

The court said Brown could not rely on the Indian Child Welfare Act for relief because he never had legal or physical custody at the time of adoption proceedings, which were initiated by the non-Native American birth mother without his knowledge.

The father then took his case to Oklahoma courts.

Father's attorneys will contest extradition

Following the Supreme Court order, a family court in South Carolina developed a "transition plan" to ease any transfer, taking into account the girl's age, sensitivities of the parties involved and the Native American heritage dynamic underlying the larger legal dispute.

Brown did not attend a transition meeting, saying he had National Guard training out of state and was unable to get out of that duty.

The South Carolina family court then ordered that Veronica be turned over immediately. Brown refused to turn the child over and was cited for contempt. A warrant was issued on August 10 for "custodial interference."

Brown turned himself in to authorities in Oklahoma, his home state. He posted a $10,000 bond.

Fallin acted after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley filed a request with the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking "the prompt return of a South Carolina child to her adoptive parents and ensuring that Mr. Brown is held accountable for criminally withholding Veronica Rose Capobianco from her parents for nearly one month," according to a court document.

"Our hope and expectation is Mr. Brown turns himself into the Sequoyah County (Oklahoma) sheriff tomorrow," Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, told CNN on Wednesday evening. "If he does not, the sheriff will arrest him and can do so on or off tribal land."