skip to content
Back to top

Emails detail Gov. Fallin's involvement in Baby Veronica case

April 21, 2014

By MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer

Gov. Mary Fallin received an extradition warrant for Baby Veronica's biological father on the same day the adoptive parents came to Oklahoma to look for the girl.

South Carolina's governor, Nikki Haley, had called Fallin personally last August to support the parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who were locked in a legal tug-of-war with the girl's Cherokee family in Oklahoma.

Fallin's office initially expected to approve the extradition request immediately as a routine matter, according to records obtained Friday by the Tulsa World.

"Governor Fallin would not deny a (rendition) request from another governor," said a draft press release written on Aug. 12, "unless she thought the law was somehow being circumvented or abused."

That statement, however, was never released. And less than 24 hours later, the governor's office decided to slow down.

"Governor Fallin has up to 90 days to review the request," her advisers wrote on Aug. 13, noting that Dusten Brown had a court hearing in September to challenge South Carolina's attempt to extradite him.

"Governor Fallin does not expect to make any decision regarding the rendition request until the September hearing," her advisers wrote.

The records were among 2,600 pages released in response to Freedom of Information requests from the Tulsa World and other news agencies.

They reflect how quickly the momentum shifted back and forth in the epic custody battle, which attracted international attention as Brown and the Cherokee Nation fought to keep Veronica in Oklahoma.

After the adoptive parents gave a tearful press conference in downtown Tulsa on Aug. 14, Fallin increased the pressure on Brown, who was facing a complaint of "custodial interference" in South Carolina.

Fallin threatened to speed up the extradition process if he didn't compromise and let the Capobiancos visit Veronica, who was 3 years old at the time.

"Our positions yesterday and today are not contradictory," the governor's spokesman, Alex Weintz wrote on Aug. 14.

"The key is that the gov wants them to work it out outside of court, and to do so as quickly as possible."

The next day, Aug. 15, Brown's attorney sent the governor's office evidence that his client had already offered to compromise.

Attorney Clark Brewster provided a copy of an email he had sent earlier that day to Paul Swain, who was representing the Capobiancos.

The email recounts a conversation between the two attorneys discussing the possibility of face-to-face negotiations and outlines Brown's initial offer.

Both sides would agree that "Brown is Veronica's father and that he has parental rights to remain involved in her life," Brewster suggested.

They would also agree on a "custody/visitation schedule" for Brown and "mutually work toward the common goal" of raising Veronica. Brewster wrote.

"So far we have been unsuccessful in even getting them to respond to meeting with the Browns," Brewster told the governor's office, "or even visiting with Veronica."

Later that day, the Capobiancos got an order in Cherokee County to have the Browns brought to court, sparking a closed-door hearing that had national media camping outside the courthouse.

The legal battles dragged on for weeks. And Fallin signed the extradition order Sept. 4, after Cherokee marshals allegedly turned the adoptive parents away from a scheduled visit with the girl.

Later that month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an order that had been keeping Veronica in the state while the appeals process played out. Brown handed her over to the Capobiancos that same day.

His ex-fiancee arranged the private adoption in 2009 allegedly without telling him.

Veronica spent the first two years of her life in South Carolina, until Brown won custody in 2011.

The Capobiancos appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before ultimately getting the girl back last year.

The documents released Friday include a flood of e-mails from the public, some supporting the Capobiancos, others defending the Browns.

One came from the birth mother's mother.

"She is a wonderful, strong young woman," she wrote to the governor. "From the very beginning, my daughter went with her heart for Veronica."



This site contains links to other web sites that may be of interest to you. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) / Children's Bureau (CB) does not endorse the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites. Their contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views or policies of the Children's Bureau. Access to this information does not in any way constitute an endorsement by the Department of Health and Human Services. Furthermore, ACF/CB does not endorse any commercial products.