OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is trying to persuade South Carolina to drop a charge and extradition order against a Cherokee father who disputed his daughter’s adoption, after he handed the girl over to her adoptive parents this week.
Dusten Brown was charged with custodial interference in August after he failed to show up to a family court meeting with his 4-year-old daughter Veronica in South Carolina, where her adoptive parents live. Fallin signed the extradition warrant earlier this month, saying Brown, of Nowata, Okla., was acting in “bad faith” for failing to hand over the girl.
Brown had been in a custody dispute with Veronica’s adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina, for years. But on Monday, Brown handed Veronica over to the Capobiancos, and Fallin’s spokesman said this should draw the legal action against Brown to a close.
“Governor Fallin’s hope is that Dusten Brown will not have to go to South Carolina,” spokesman Alex Weintz wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press.
Brown is due in court in Oklahoma next week to address the extradition order.
A spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Haley is working closely with officials in both states “to find a solution that is in the best interests of both states, and most importantly, baby Veronica and the Capobiancos.”
Veronica’s birth mother was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption, and the Capobiancos had been lined up to receive custody since 2009. But Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and his family claimed the Indian Child Welfare Act mandated that the child be raised within the Cherokee Nation, and he won custody when the girl was 2.
The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 with the intent of reducing the high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native American families. A South Carolina court cited the law when awarding Veronica to Brown in 2011, but the U.S. Supreme Court said this summer that the law did not apply in Brown’s case because he had been absent from the child’s life.
A South Carolina family court judge then ruled in July that custody be awarded to the Capobiancos and ordered Brown to hand Veronica over. Brown refused, and South Carolina authorities charged him with custodial interference after he failed to show up to a court-ordered meeting.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court had issued an emergency stay keeping Veronica with Brown and his family in Oklahoma while he appealed through Oklahoma courts, but the court lifted the stay on Monday. Brown then handed the girl over to the Capobiancos.