OKLAHOMA CITY — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley dropped her request Wednesday to extradite the biological father of a Cherokee girl who was at the center of a bitter custody dispute, but he could still face a charge of custodial interference if he goes to South Carolina.
Dusten Brown, of Nowata, Okla., had been scheduled to appear in court in Sequoyah County in Oklahoma on Thursday to face extradition to South Carolina.
Brown and 4-year-old Veronica’s adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, S.C., had been in a custody dispute over the little girl for years.
In August, Brown was charged in South Carolina with custodial interference for failing to hand over Veronica to the Capobiancos. But last week, he did just that after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an emergency stay that had kept her in Oklahoma.
Haley, in a letter to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, said her decision to withdraw the extradition was due to the fact that Brown ultimately complied with orders in South Carolina and Oklahoma courts to hand over Veronica to the Capobiancos.
Fallin last week said she hoped the extradition demand was dropped.
“It is my hope this legal matter will be closed and that all parties – especially Veronica – can find peace and stability in their lives,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
Though he won’t be extradited, Brown could still face the charge if he returns to South Carolina.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, the state prosecutor for the Charleston, S.C., area, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment about the status of the charge.
“The charge apparently still stands at this time in South Carolina ...” said Robert Nigh, one of Brown’s lawyers. “He of course does not want to face criminal charges in South Carolina.”
Brown’s lawyers have repeatedly said he did not break the law in failing to hand over the girl when a South Carolina court finalized the adoption in July.
“When that happened, Mr. Brown exhausted every legal remedy available to him in an effort to maintain custody of his daughter,” Nigh said. He also said no final decision has been made on whether to continue to pursue other legal options.
Veronica’s birth mother was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption, and the Capobiancos had been lined up to receive custody since 2009. Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and his family claimed the Indian Child Welfare Act mandated that the child be raised within the Cherokee Nation, and he won custody when the girl was 2.
The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 with the intent of reducing the high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native American families.
A South Carolina court cited the act when awarding Veronica to Brown in 2011, but the U.S. Supreme Court said the law did not apply in this case because Brown had been absent from the child’s life.
A call to a spokeswoman for the Capobiancos wasn’t immediately returned.