(Reuters) - The biological father of “Baby Veronica,” a Native American girl who was at the heart of a protracted custody battle, will not be extradited to South Carolina to face felony charges for interfering with her adoption, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said on Wednesday.
Fallin said in a statement that she canceled an extradition warrant for Dusten Brown, the father of “Baby Veronica”, after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley withdrew her request for extradition.
“My heart goes out to Dusten Brown as well as the Capobianco family. Both have suffered through a long and emotionally exhausting ordeal,” Fallin said.
Haley withdrew her extradition request, citing the “exceptional nature” of the case as well as Brown’s compliance with Oklahoma and South Carolina court orders, according to the Fallin.
The case of Veronica, who is 3/256 Cherokee, centered on the Indian Child Welfare Act, passed by Congress in 1978 in response to Native American protests. The law established that it was best to keep Native American children with their families or, short of that, within their tribe to preserve their culture.
Veronica’s birth mother, who is not Native American, arranged the adoption with a white couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, before the girl was born. Brown had asserted he did not know the mother would give her up for adoption when he signed away his parental rights.
Brown, who was not married to the birth mother, argued that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 allowed him to have Veronica. A South Carolina family court agreed with him and he took custody of her in 2011.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law did not apply in Veronica’s case, in part because her birth parents were not married and also because Brown never had custody. Her adoption by the Capobiancos in South Carolina was finalized the following month.
But Brown refused to hand over Veronica, and the girl remained with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
On September 4, Fallin signed an order to have Brown extradited to South Carolina to face charges of interfering with the Capobiancos’ parental rights.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on September 23 cleared the way for the child to be transferred from the custody of her Oklahoma biological father to the South Carolina couple who adopted her.
Hours after the ruling, she was placed back with the Capobiancos.
Reporting By Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Ken Wills