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OK: Baby Veronica's adoptive parents arrive in Tulsa

August 14, 2013

Tulsa World - August 13, 2013

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As Gov. Mary Fallin announced Tuesday that she wouldn’t act soon to extradite Baby Veronica’s father to South Carolina, the child’s adoptive parents came to Oklahoma to look for the girl.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco arrived in Tulsa late Tuesday and called a press conference for Wednesday morning. They had vowed earlier this week to come find the 3-year-old girl themselves if law enforcement didn’t take physical custody away from her Cherokee family.

Meanwhile, Fallin and the Cherokee Nation expressed hope that a compromise could be reached to end the custody battle, which has been raging for nearly four years now.

Fallin urged the biological father and the adoptive parents “to reconcile and to come to an agreement that best serves their child.”

“To be clear, the legal system cannot deliver a happy ending in this case,” Fallin said in a prepared statement. “Only Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family can do that.”

She will not approve the warrant until Dusten Brown has a chance to fight extradition in court, starting with a hearing Sept. 12 in Sequoyah County, Fallin said.

South Carolina’s governor, Nikki Haley, called Fallin personally this week to support the adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

Fallin’s office receives more than 100 extradition warrants a year and routinely approves them, officials said.

But it’s unusual for the legality of a warrant to be challenged in court, as Brown is doing.

Her office will have 90 days to review the warrant. And if it follows “the letter and spirit of the law,” she will sign it, Fallin said.

“My hope, however,” she said, “continues to be that sending Mr. Brown to face criminal charges in South Carolina is unnecessary.”

Brown turned himself in Monday on a South Carolina warrant for “custodial interference” after refusing to obey a court order from a court in that state to take his 3-year-old daughter back there “immediately.”

Oklahoma law gives him until Aug. 23 to contest the order.

Meanwhile, Cherokee Nation courts also have hearings scheduled to consider the tribe’s jurisdiction, since Brown and Veronica are both members.

Instead of drawing out the legal battle, both sides should negotiate a compromise and share custody, said Chrissi Nimmo, an assistant attorney general for the tribe.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, Brown will always remain her biological father, and the Capobiancos “will always be people who played a significant role in her life,” Nimmo said.

“The longer this goes on, the harder it’s going to be for those individuals to have an amicable relationship,” she said.

“And the person who has the most to lose from that situation is Veronica.”

The Capobiancos arranged a private adoption with Brown’s ex-fiancee and raised the girl for the first two years of her life.

But Brown says he was tricked into signing away his parental rights when he thought he was only giving custody to the birth mother.

He sued for custody and, after a two-year court battle, brought Veronica back to Oklahoma in December 2011.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that South Carolina had misinterpreted federal law and ordered the state courts to reconsider the case.

Since then, Brown has offered at least one compromise, suggesting that Veronica should spend summers in South Carolina and school months in Oklahoma.

And the Capobiancos have repeatedly said they want Veronica’s biological father and Cherokee family to remain “a meaningful part of her life.”

“No one wants to see Mr. Brown go to jail — least of all the Capobiancos,” according to a joint statement from Noel Tucker and Lori Alvino McGill, attorneys for the birth mother who support the adoptive parents.

“But everyone has to follow the law, including Mr. Brown. Matt and Melanie are her parents.”

The Capobiancos have been denied the right to see or talk to Veronica for the past 19 months, while she has lived in Oklahoma with the Browns, the attorneys said.

“If Mr. Brown wants to pursue a resolution of this matter outside of the judicial system, as Governor Fallin has suggested,” the attorneys said in an email, “he should start by immediately allowing Matt and Melanie to visit their daughter.”

In a press release issued after the couple arrived in Tulsa on Tuesday night, they said that “they have traveled to Oklahoma in hopes of seeing their daughter and bringing her home.”

Wednesday afternoon in Charleston, S.C., Brown’s attorneys will challenge a judge’s demand that they reveal Veronica’s location.

Cherokee officials will only say that she is with her paternal grandparents, who have temporary guardianship under a tribal court order.

Brown’s attorneys will also ask the judge to reconsider his order to take Veronica to South Carolina “immediately.”


September 2009: Baby Veronica born in Oklahoma, taken to South Carolina for adoption.

January 2010: Father, Dusten Brown, signs away custody but files an appeal a few days later.

December 2011: Baby Veronica returns to Oklahoma after a family court in South Carolina grants custody to the father.

July 2012: South Carolina Supreme Court upholds the custody decision.

January: U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal from the adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

April: U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the case.

June 25: U.S. Supreme Court rules that federal law doesn't require that Veronica be given to her biological father. The court did not clear her adoptive parents to immediately regain custody.

July 9: Cherokee Nation District Court officials confirm that Dusten Brown's mother and father, Tommy and Alice Brown, have filed for adoption of Veronica - in line with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissenting opinion.

July 17: Cherokee Nation courts name three of Dusten Brown's family members as joint guardians, giving them the power to make legal and medical decisions for Veronica and complicating the issue for South Carolina courts. Later that day, the South Carolina Supreme Court terminates Brown's parental rights and gives full custody to the adoptive parents.

July 24: Christy Maldonado, Veronica's birth mother, files a lawsuit with several other women who have placed children for adoption, seeking to have part of the Indian Child Welfare Act declared unconstitutional.

July 26: Dusten Brown files a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and require South Carolina courts to hold a best-interest hearing for Veronica.

July 31: Prior to a hearing on transition details for Veronica, a Cherokee Nation attorney appointed for Veronica files a federal lawsuit in South Carolina seeking to temporarily stop the hearing and hold a best-interest hearing. It is denied.

Aug. 2: The U.S. Supreme Court denies Brown's July 26 petition. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the only dissenters.

Aug. 5: A South Carolina judge orders Brown to surrender custody "immediately" after he didn't bring Veronica to a court-ordered visitation with the adoptive parents in South Carolina.

Aug. 9: South Carolina officials issue an arrest warrant for Brown. He is expected to be taken into custody in Iowa, where he is training with the Oklahoma National Guard.

Aug. 10: National Guard officials grant Brown requested leave from training after he is subpoenaed to appear in Cherokee Nation tribal court for an emergency hearing in Tahlequah.

Aug. 12: Brown does not appear at the emergency hearing. He turns himself in to authorities in Sequoyah County and is released after posting $10,000 bond. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs a warrant for Brown’s extradition and sends it to Gov. Mary Fallin for her approval.

Aug. 13: Fallin declines to sign off on the warrant, saying Brown has a right to contest extradition in court. She says she will not act upon the warrant until after Brown’s next extradition hearing on Sept. 12.

Upcoming court action

Wednesday: South Carolina Family Court will hear motions from Brown and the Cherokee Nation.

Aug. 23: Deadline for Brown to contest South Carolina's order in Oklahoma court.

Sept. 4: A Cherokee tribal court will consider extending a temporary guardianship for Veronica's stepmother and grandparents, potentially claiming jurisdiction over the case.

Sept. 12: Brown to return to Sequoyah County Court for a hearing on his extradition.



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