Okla. Governor Signs Extradition Order; Dusten Brown Turns Himself In
Update: Dusten Brown has surrendered to Sequoyah County authorities in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, where he posted bail and was released on his own recognizance. Additionally, Judge Jeffrey Payton moved the date for Brown's extradition hearing, to which he is entitled under Oklahoma statute, from September 12 to October 3. Please visit Indian Country Today Media Network for continuing updates to this story.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin yesterday signed an extradition order from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley after she alleged that Dusten Brown was “not acting in good faith.”
Governor Fallin, who is seeking reelection in 2014, issued a brief statement late Wednesday afternoon in which she stated that Brown had not allowed Matt and Melanie Capobianco to visit Veronica, who will be 4 years old next week.
Clark Brewster, attorney for Dusten Brown, called the allegations by the governor “factually incorrect,” and said that Brown had not only allowed numerous visits between Veronica and the Capobiancos, but he also extended an “open arm” invitation, which they declined.
Further, sources say that Brown was forced to cut off those visits when he learned that the Capobiancos were conspiring to flee the state with Veronica and go back to South Carolina with the girl, thereby putting his daughter's safety at risk in what has already become a high conflict, unstable situation.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has stayed the transfer of custody of Veronica Brown, and even with this knowledge, Governor Fallin has hastily asserted herself into the judicial process as Dusten seeks his due process,” said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskins Jr. “Instead of allowing the courts to decide this case, Governor Fallin has used her authority to attempt to coerce Mr. Brown in handing over his daughter. The civil rights of Dusten and Veronica Brown are being ignored.”
Sources said Brown will turn himself in to authorities this morning, but that he would continue to fight extradition to South Carolina, where he has been charged with felony “custodial interference.” The charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Under Oklahoma law, Brown is entitled to an extradition hearing before a judge in Sequoyah County, where he originally bonded out last month after turning himself in for the South Carolina warrant for his arrest.
Fallin's spokesman, Alex Weintz, said the governor's legal staff had communicated with “all parties.” But Brown's lawyers insist that they attempted to discuss the legalities of the situation with Fallin, but that she refused and issued the order. “
The events of today, and the events of the last four years should frighten every parent, and more specifically, every single father in Oklahoma,” said Hoskins. “Additionally, Governor Fallin has issued a statement that contains false information about Mr. Brown, knowing full well that [he] is bound by a gag order, cannot respond and defend himself in the media. This is unacceptable and Oklahomans will not forget.”
According to pollsters and campaign trackers in both states, it would appear that Fallin's sudden move in signing the extradition without due process or factual basis comes with motives that have more to do with party politics than the future of a 4-year-old tribal member in her own state.
Fallin and Haley both spoke at the Republican National Convention last year to showcase the party's female leadership. Both women are known to be warm colleagues who are “in constant contact” and are up for reelection in 2014, having appeared together at numerous events, including the annual Goldwater Institute fundraising event in Arizona.
Haley, however, currently has an approval rating in the 30-40 percent range in South Carolina. Sources there say that she is deeply disliked and distrusted by elements of the Republican party of that state, who have never been comfortable with her as governor. Haley launched her reelection campaign in late August against South Carolina Democratic state senator Vincent Sheheen, whom she defeated in 2010 by a narrow margin.
Fallin, who enjoys a 70 percent approval rating, long ago signaled her intent to run in 2014 and has already begun fundraising for her upcoming reelection bid on her website, www.maryfallin.org, whose tagline is “Making Oklahoma First.”
According to public records, she pulled in over $500,000 in the second quarter of this year for a total of nearly $1 million in her war chest for 2014. Her largest contributors appear to be among the energy and banking sectors, though tribes did contribute in the last election cycle.
“She has shown her hand and Mary is clearly in it for Mary,” said one tribal leader who declined to be identified. “She couldn't care less about Veronica Brown and she just wants all of this to go away because it's interfering with her narrative for reelection. But there is no way she will recover with her tribal constituents after this. So, we begin by using our voices to promote voter registration and by supporting the candidate who really understands how to make Oklahoma first.”
But as Dusten Brown awaits his fate regarding extradition to South Carolina, Fallin and Haley will have plenty of time to discuss their next steps at their upcoming donor events.