Capobiancos seek resolution in Veronica custody case

Veronica with Dusten Brown.
Veronica with Dusten Brown.

TULSA, Okla. (WCSC/AP) - The last custody hearing in South Carolina was held Wednesday afternoon in Charleston County. An attorney for the Capobiancos, James Thompson, said the judge's ruling stands. Three-year-old Veronica is still to be transferred back to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, her adoptive parents.

Thompson said Dusten Brown's lawyers asked the judge to reconsider certain parts of his recent custody ruling concerning the adoption.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco took the stage Wednesday morning at The Hyatt in Tulsa and said they were willing to reach a compromise that would let them regain custody of Veronica, the Cherokee child they adopted several years ago, only to have her taken from them.

A lawyer for Matt and Melanie Capobianco said Wednesday he was willing to meet with the child's biological father, Dusten Brown, to "build a path forward." Melanie Capobianco said her goal was to "seek peace for our daughter."

The adoptive mother also said she was excited about seeing Veronica, and frustrated to learn their request to meet with her had been denied shortly after they arrived in Oklahoma late Tuesday.

A South Carolina judge finalized the adoption, but a Cherokee Nation court granted custody to the family of her biological father, Dusten Brown.  On Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's office said Fallin would not sign an extradition warrant for Brown, and will wait for a court hearing on Sept. 12 before taking action.

The Capobiancos boarded a plane for The Sooner State shortly thereafter.

During Wednesday's press conference, Lawyer Troy Dunn said he was seeking a private meeting with Brown, and that the Capobiancos said they would want Brown and the Cherokee Nation to be a part of the child's life after they regain custody.

The Capobiancos said Veronica's biological mother, Christy Maldonado, wanted to attend the press conference but did not.  Capobianco said Maldonado, who has been supportive of the adoption by the James Island couple, had received "lots of threats."

A handful of protesters shouted "Keep Veronica home" and "You're trying to break laws in Oklahoma" at the Capobianos as they emerged from a hotel after meeting with reporters. Some held signs reading "Keep Veronica Home" and others that were written in the Cherokee language.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker has responded to the latest comments from the James Island couple and their representatives, "The Capobiancos have requested the Cherokee Nation and Dusten Brown to follow the South Carolina court's order, but they forget that Dusten Brown has the same rights to have his arguments heard before our Oklahoma courts and Cherokee Nation Tribal Court. We respectfully ask the Capobiancos to allow that due process. The Cherokee people throughout time have stood our ground and for the rights of our people, and this is no different. We will continue to stand by Dusten and his biological daughter, Veronica, and for what is right."

South Carolina officials charged Brown with custodial interference after he failed to show up at a meeting earlier this month. Brown was serving with the Oklahoma National Guard at the time, and his parents had custody of Veronica through the Cherokee court system.

While Fallin initially said she will not consider sending Brown to South Carolina pending a hearing, she changed her tune after Wednesday's press conference.  Fallin said the Capobiancos deserve the opportunity to meet with Veronica and Brown "to end this conflict."

"If Mr. Brown is unwilling to cooperate with these reasonable expectations, then I will be forced to expedite his extradition request and let the issue be settled in court," she said in a statement.

The Capobiancos raised Veronica for two years before the SC Supreme Court ordered them to turn her over to Brown in January of 2011, citing the Indian Child Welfare Act. In June, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the law does not apply to this case.

The SC Supreme Court then reconvened and ruled Veronica would be returned to the Capobiancos.

Brown's whereabouts are currently unknown.  Veronica is in the care of her paternal grandparents and Brown's wife at an undisclosed location.

Copyright 2013 WCSC. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.