OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday that she has spoken with South Carolina’s governor about extraditing the father of a 3-year-old girl at the center of an international adoption dispute but won’t act on the request until the man has his day in court.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley made the extradition request for Dusten Brown, who was charged over the weekend with custodial interference after failing to appear at a court-ordered meeting in South Carolina, where the adoptive parents live. The case has raised questions about jurisdictions and a federal law meant to keep members of Native American tribes together.
Fallin’s spokesman, Alex Weintz, told The Associated Press that the governor has 90 days to review the extradition request.
Brown turned himself in to authorities in Oklahoma on Monday and was released after posting bond, but refused to be extradited without a governor’s warrant. He’s due back in court on Sept. 12.
The 3-yeart-old girl, Veronica, remains in the care of her paternal grandparents and Dusten Brown’s wife, Robin Brown. The three adults were named the girl’s temporary guardians by a Cherokee Nation court while Dusten Brown was in Iowa attending training for the Oklahoma National Guard.
Melanie and Matt Capobianco of James Island, S.C., have been trying to adopt Veronica since her birth in 2009; they raised the girl for two years. But Brown has had custody of his daughter since 2011, when South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled that the 1978 federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which favors a Native American child living with his or her extended family or other tribal members over non-Native Americans, gave custodial preference to Brown.
The Capobiancos appealed the South Carolina Supreme Court’s 2011 decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in June it ruled South Carolina courts decide who gets to adopt Veronica. The state court said Capobiancos should raise the girl.
A South Carolina Family Court Judge finalized the adoption last week and approved a transition plan detailing a gradual process for reintroducing the girl to the Capobiancos. But when Dusten Brown or a representative did not appear for a court-ordered meeting with the Capobiancos on Aug. 4, authorities in South Carolina charged him with custodian interference.
“To be clear, the legal system cannot deliver a happy ending in this case. Only Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family can do that,” Fallin said in a statement. “For Veronica’s sake, I urge them to reconcile and to come to an agreement that best serves their child and grants all parties some measure of peace.”
Haley’s spokesman, Doug Mayer, said Haley “remains committed to returning baby Veronica back home safely.”
“This is a difficult and sad situation for everyone involved, and Gov. Haley is working with law enforcement, the state of Oklahoma, and the family to resolve it as quickly as legally possible,” he said. “Regardless of the varying personal opinions on this case, it is every governor’s first priority to uphold the rule of law and that is what must happen here.”
Kinnard contributed to this report from Columbia, S.C.
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