(updated Aug. 13)
Gov. Nikki Haley has signed an extradition order for Dusten Brown to be brought to South Carolina.
The father of a 3-year-old girl of Cherokee heritage whose adoption case is beginning to spiral out of control turned himself into Oklahoma law enforcement Monday.
But Dustin Brown is refusing extradition to South Carolina, where adoptive couple Matt and Melanie Capobianco are trying to get custody of his daughter Veronica. Brown is accused of custodial interference after not appearing at several legal proceedings once a family court gave the Capobiancos custody two weeks ago.
He was released on a $10,000 bond shortly after his arrest. Brown’s attorney Clark Brewster released the following statement to media outlets Monday afternoon:
“We have been retained and are evaluating all legal options, including the legality of the South Carolina parental termination order. We will be at Mr. Brown’s side as he fights to keep his beautiful daughter and resists extradition to South Carolina.”
The Cherokee Nation has said that Brown was training with the National Guard at the time of the hearings. He was supposed to remain on active duty until August 21, but was granted an emergency release for the hearing.
The Cherokee Nation called the arrest warrant “morally reprehensible” in a statement. “All parties involved were well aware of Dusten Brown’s legal obligation to complete National Guard duty,” the statement reads. “The attorneys, the courts and the adoptive couple in this case were keenly aware of Dusten’s commitment, but clearly chose to ignore it.”
Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart said Brown was able to refuse extradition because there was no warrant signed by the Oklahoma governor. The sheriff told the Tulsa World that Brown would be returned to jail once the governor signed a warrant.
Meanwhile, the Capobiancos are asking Oklahoma law enforcement agencies and the FBI to resolve a dispute that has now lasted for years. Melanie Capobianco told South Carolina Radio Network that the couple is even considering traveling to Oklahoma to find the girl themselves. “We are within our rights to go get our daughter now. We are considering it right now,” she said in an interview Monday.
The Capobiancos were given custody of Veronica by the girl’s mother soon after her birth. But Brown challenged the adoption and a South Carolina family court judge awarded the Oklahoma man custody at the end of 2011, relying on a federal law that tries to prevent the breakup of Indian families. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply to this particular case because Brown had not legally established himself as a parent.
A few weeks later, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Brown had given up his parental rights before Veronica’s birth and ordered a family court judge to finalize custody for the Capobiancos.
In the meantime, state family court finalized the adoption, but Brown has not returned the child as he continues to exhaust his legal remedies. The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office issued a warrant for his arrest on Friday after a family court judge ruled Brown violated a court order when neither he nor a representative appeared at an August 4 scheduled visit.