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A Hospital Let Tribal Police Walk Out with Newborn — Now the Parents Want Answers


Just two days after Florida parents welcomed a baby girl into the world at Baptist Hospital in Miami, Miccosukee police detectives took the baby because a tribal court order had granted custody to the maternal grandmother.

Rebecca Sanders, who is 28 years old and a member of the Miccosukee tribe, told the Miami Herald that her grandmother, Betty Osceola, is behind what Sanders believes was essentially a kidnapping. She said it’s because the grandmother doesn’t want the child’s white father, 36-year-old Justin Johnson, in the family picture.

One issue here is that the state of Florida’s jurisdiction ends where the Miccosukee reservation and properties begin, and the court order was signed by a tribal judge. Osceola’s daughter says she doesn’t live on the Miccosukee reservation, but in Collier County, but it’s unclear if she’s there or if she took the child to the reservation.

If Osceola and the child are on the Miccosukee reservation, federal authorities would have to be called in to take action.

The two parents are at a loss for words over the ordeal.

Sanders said she feels as if the Miccosukee tribe is abusing its sovereign power.

“I feel like I have no rights. I thought the tribe was to protect its people, not use its own rulings to control its people,” she said.

Johnson said that his head is still spinning and that he doesn’t understand how the “people of the Miccosukee tribe can look me in the face and tell me this is OK.”

Another angle to the story is the hospital’s role in allowing this to occur. The hospital hasn’t commented, nor has the Miccosukee tribe’s counsel. The grandmother hasn’t answered her phone either.

A former Miccosukee police chief, however, commented that the Miccosukee police officers, if they did not bring the tribal order before state or federal judge, acted wrongly.

“In my opinion, the Miccosukee officers needed to present the tribal order to a state or federal judge in Dade, who would review it and issue an order allowing Miami-Dade police to follow through with removing the baby,” he told the Herald.

[Image via Miami Herald screengrab]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.