Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed an extradition order to South Carolina for the biological father of Baby Veronica, the 3-year-old girl in the midst of a years-long custody dispute, saying Dusten Brown is “not acting in good faith.”
In July, a South Carolina court ordered Brown to hand Veronica over to her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, but he refused. He faces charges in South Carolina, the Capobiancos’ home state, for disobeying the court order. An extradition order from Brown’s home state of Oklahoma was necessary to send him to South Carolina to answer to the court because he has refused to leave Oklahoma. Fallin did not sign the extradition order following the initial ruling in July, but cited Brown's failure to cooperate as a reason she signed it on Wednesday.
“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 statement released by her office. “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. I also outlined parameters for what I believe to be acting in ‘good faith:’ both Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family should be able to see Veronica; both parties should continue meeting to pursue a resolution outside of court; and both parties must obey the courts and the rule of law."
Brown was in court in Sequoyah County in Oklahoma on Thursday to contest the extradition after surrendering to authorities. He was released on bail by Judge Jeff Payton until an extradition hearing on Oct. 3, according to the Tulsa World.
Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart told the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier that he had never heard of a suspect being released when taken into custody on a governor’s warrant seeking extradition to another state. He added that the judge made the ruling over Lockhart's objections.
“This is the first time in history I have seen that done,” he told the Post and Courier.
This was the second time Brown was arrested, as a warrant for him was issued out of South Carolina last month after he was charged with custodial interference for failing to honor the court's ruling and return Veronica to the Capobiancos. He turned himself in to authorities in Sequoyah County and posted bail. A hearing in that matter is scheduled for Sept. 12.
“Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith,'' Fallin said in her statement. "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.
“As governor, I am committed to upholding the rule of law. 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.”
On Aug. 30, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the girl should temporarily stay with Brown and his family in Oklahoma.
The custody dispute began in 2009 when Brown signed paperwork relinquishing his parental rights. Scheduled to deploy to Iraq at the time, Brown says he believed his signature gave full rights to Veronica’s mother, Christy Maldonado.
Brown, who had separated from Maldonado, did not expect Veronica to be put up for adoption. The Capobiancos began the adoption process when Veronica was 4 months old, and she lived with the family for 27 months.
At the heart of Veronica's case is the Indian Child Welfare Act, established in 1978 in response to high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native families. A South Carolina family court awarded custody of the girl to Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, under the Indian Child Welfare Act. A family court in the same state later ruled that custody be awarded to the Capobiancos and ordered Brown to hand Veronica over, but he refused.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in June that provisions of the act, which would favor Brown, didn't apply in the case.