Instead of eagerly preparing for his daughter’s fourth birthday celebration, Dusten Brown grew worried Wednesday that he would be arrested and miss the milestone.
Oklahoma’s governor signed an extradition warrant that cleared the way for authorities there to arrest Brown and send him to Charleston, where he faces a felony charge of custodial interference for refusing to give up Veronica. The toddler, who was adopted by a James Island couple she lived with for 27 months, turns 4 on Sept. 15.
“(Her birthday is) the kind of thing he wishes he could just focus on and relish,” Brown’s Charleston attorney, Shannon Jones, said Wednesday after talking with him by telephone. “But instead he’s getting arrested for interfering with the so-called parental rights of third parties.
“It is the sickest and saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my career.”
Lori Alvino McGill, the Washington attorney for Veronica’s birth mother who has spoken in favor of the adoptive parents, praised the governor’s “decisive action” to help end the case.
“Veronica deserves the right to go home now, without yet more court orders or the intervention of law enforcement,” said Alvino McGill, who declined to discuss Oklahoma court proceedings. “Brown’s continued refusal to abide by the law is hurting everyone involved, especially Veronica.”
Brown has been fighting Veronica’s adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island.
Veronica’s birth mother gave her up for adoption to the Capobiancos shortly after she was born, and Veronica lived with them until she was 2 years old. Before the adoption could be finalized, Brown, a member of the Cherokee tribe, used the heritage he shares with Veronica to get custody in late 2011 through the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Courts have ruled that Veronica’s adoption by the Capobiancos is legal, but Brown has refused to recognize it.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley requested Brown’s extradition from Oklahoma to South Carolina on Aug. 13.
Charleston County deputies were sent to Oklahoma last week. Maj. Jim Brady said the sheriff had no comment on the latest development, and it’s not clear when Brown might be transported here.
Veronica remains in Oklahoma. The Capobiancos have been in Oklahoma trying to get her back. Brown’s extradition does not affect her placement.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin pointed out that Brown’s arguments against Veronica’s adoption have been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court as well as courts in South Carolina and Oklahoma. She said she delayed signing the extradition order hoping the two families would work out an agreement, but Brown has not cooperated.
“Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith,” she said in a press release Wednesday. “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.”
The Capobiancos are not able to talk about the governor’s order because of legal constraints, family spokesman Jessica Munday said.
Brown will continue to fight for his daughter, according to his attorney. “Dusten is still fighting,” Jones said. “We are all continuing to fight for a just outcome in this case.”
The Cherokee Nation’s secretary of state, Chuck Hoskin Jr., said late Wednesday that Fallin had injected herself into the judicial process without letting Brown thoroughly challenge the adoption in an attempt to coerce Brown into handing over Veronica.
Hoskin called the move “unacceptable” and said Oklahoma voters wouldn’t forget it.
“We feel that the governor had failed in her duty to protect our most vulnerable citizens, which is exactly what Veronica Brown is,” Hoskin said in a statement. “We all continue to pray that a court will determine what is in Veronica best interests, which has yet to happen.”
The Capobiancos and Brown were together in an Oklahoma courtroom Wednesday, according to The Tulsa World. It was the sixth courtroom in three weeks to hear arguments over some element of the case, according to the local newspaper. The Capobiancos and Brown were present at a hearing at the Muskogee County Courthouse, the newspaper reported.
With a gag order in place and all records sealed, it’s not clear what was being discussed at Wednesday’s hearing.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414.