The woman accused of kidnapping her daughter in Isle of Palms two decades ago should be extradited from Australia within the next few months, her local attorney said Thursday.
Dorothy Lee Barnett, 53, has agreed to return to Charleston and face federal charges, Myrtle Beach attorney Russell W. Mace III said. She waived an initial extradition hearing Thursday in Australia, and Mace said she intends to forgo any further challenges.
"She has agreed to come to South Carolina," Mace said. "I expect her to be back here within the next two months."
A federal grand jury has indicted Barnett on counts of international parental kidnapping and falsifying two U.S. passport applications, which are punishable by more than 30 years in prison.
In 1994, she was allowed court-supervised visits with her daughter, Savanna Catherine Todd. Her former husband, Benjamin Harris Todd III, now 61, had full custody of the infant.
During a visit, Barnett left her beachside house and never returned. She had alleged physical abuse by Todd, a contention that his attorney said was disproved during divorce proceedings.
FBI agents tried tracking her for years, but she didn't show up again until Todd fielded a tip that she was living in Australia.
In November, after years of floating between foreign lands and forging a new identity with her daughter, Barnett was arrested in Queensland. She has been jailed there ever since. Todd since has contacted his daughter, now a 20-year-old college student known as Samantha Geldenhuys, but she remains supportive of her mother.
Two earlier extradition hearings had been postponed before a magistrate in Queensland's Maroochydore took up the case Thursday afternoon, according to court records.
Barnett agreed to extradition during the hearing, but the final decision will be up to the country's attorney general, George Brandis, or its minister for justice, Michael Tate.
Todd's attorney in Charleston, Graham Sturgis, said Brandis and Tate have broad guidelines for deciding whether to extradite Barnett.
"While she has consented to the extradition," Sturgis said, "that does not constitute automatic surrender to the U.S."
The Australian legal authorities can consider various issues. Her recently hired attorney in Australia has another opportunity to object to the process at this stage, according to the guidelines from Brandis' office.
Successful objections typically pertain to the prospect of a defendant being seriously harmed in a way that's contrary to Australian laws.
If Barnett were subjected to the death penalty for her alleged crimes, for example, that would be grounds for a challenge; she is not. Brandis and Tate also could ponder any chance that a defendant would be tortured.
Barnett's supporters in Australia have argued that she should be freed because she is the sole provider for her son and for Savanna. An online campaign to raise money for her legal defense there has accrued about $3,100 since January.
"(Her) life over the past 20 years has been honest and true to her core beliefs," wrote Australian resident Bruce J. Michell, who started the effort on GoFundMe.com. "She has kept her children safe, kept them educated and given them security."
A spokeswoman from the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting Barnett here, could not be reached.
Sturgis, Todd's lawyer since the early 1990s, said his client has no say in whether Barnett should be prosecuted.
"(Todd) is not consulted by the United States about the process," Sturgis said. "This is being done because she violated the laws of the U.S. and the laws of South Carolina and a custody order from the Charleston County court."
Mace has filed paperwork to represent Barnett in U.S. District Court in Charleston. Only time will tell how her defense here will play out, the attorney said.
"We'll just wait and see how the judicial process works," he said.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
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