Dusten Brown, the birth father embroiled in a heated custody battle over “Baby Veronica,” surrendered to Oklahoma authorities Monday on a charge of custodial interference.
The case of Veronica Capobianco has reached a boiling point, despite rulings from a South Carolina court and the U.S. Supreme Court stating that the 3-year-old Cherokee Indian girl was to be turned over to her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.
Court orders ‘Baby Veronica’ back to adoptive parents
Brown failed to appear for a mandated transfer of custody August 4 and a felony warrant was issued Friday for his arrest. According to Charleston County, South Carolina, Sheriff J. Al Cannon, Jr., the charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Brown was granted leave from his National Guard training duties in Iowa in order to turn himself in. He was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond Monday after turning himself into authorities in Oklahoma, where he lives, and has refused extradition to South Carolina.
In a press conference Monday, Sheriff Cannon stated that everything Brown has done, including surrendering to authorities in Oklahoma and using his National Guard duties as an excuse to not appear for the transfer of custody, has been “a continuing felony, a continuing crime.” Cannon also said he did not know Veronica’s or Brown’s current whereabouts.
See how it all began: Supreme Court rules on little girl’s fate
The case first reached the high court over the issue of whether the adoption was valid based on the fact that Brown – and Veronica – are Native American. Brown stated that the pending adoption violated the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law which lays out specific rules for the adoption of Native American children. In a split decision, the Supreme Court justices ruled ICWA did not apply in this instance and sent the case back to a South Carolina state court, which ruled in the Capobiancos’ favor.
An emergency custody hearing was held Monday morning in Cherokee Nation Tribal Court in Oklahoma. Brown did not attend, but his attorney, John Nichols, said his legal team “intends to do everything within the law to make sure Mr. Brown’s rights are protected.” Further, the Cherokee Nation has said Veronica has rights under tribal law that have not yet been exhausted.
Lori Alvino-McGill, attorney for Veronica’s birth mother Christinna Maldonado, said Monday’s hearing was held without notifying her client or the Capobiancos. The Capobiancos have an open adoption arrangement with Maldonado and was actively engaged in her daughter’s life, prior to her removal and placement with Brown.
The Capobiancos have called on federal law enforcement to resolve the matter. In a press conference outside their South Carolina home Monday morning, Matt Capobianco said, “Our daughter has been kidnapped, and I expect the situation to be treated as such.” He went on to say, “If this doesn’t happen, I will be boarding a flight to Oklahoma today and I am coming to get my daughter.”
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the South Carolina governor said, “Gov. Haley is working closely with law enforcement, the solicitor’s office, the state of Oklahoma, and the family on this case. Our goal is to do all we can to get Veronica back home safely.”