Veronica's biological father: 'I never abandoned my child'

Published: Jul. 3, 2013 at 1:34 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 3, 2013 at 12:52 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (CBS) - It's just a matter of days before a court in South Carolina once again takes up the case of a young girl caught in a custody battle between her biological father and the couple that wants to adopt her.

Three-year-old Veronica lives in Oklahoma with her biological father Dustin Brown and his wife. But Veronica spent her first two years in South Carolina with Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

They were at Veronica's birth in 2009 and brought her home believing they could adopt her from her unmarried biological mother. Before his National Guard unit was sent to Iraq, Brown sent a text message and signed paperwork surrendering his parental rights.

"Before I deployed, I thought I was just signing the papers to her custody rights," Brown said.  "I didn't think that I was signing, you know, giving up everything...not wanting to have anything to do with my child. I mean that's my daughter."

When Brown found out about the adoption plans, he invoked a 1978 federal law that protects children of Native Americans from being separated from their families and tribes. Brown is a Cherokee Indian.

"They can't provide what my grandmother told me and what I learned whenever I was growing up," Brown said.  "They can't provide that because that's stuff that I've seen. That's stuff that I lived. That's something that's not in a book."

A South Carolina court agreed and ordered Veronica be given to Brown. But last month, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the 1978 law did not apply in this case.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote Brown "...abandoned the Indian child before birth and never had custody of the child."

"I mean, they could think what they want, say what they want," Brown said."But I never abandoned my child?"

When asked about the text message and paperwork he signed before leaving for Iraq, Brown said, "And that was one of the dumbest decisions I've made."

But the justices also decided to leave the custody battle in the hands of a South Carolina court. The Capobiancos, who want Veronica back, released a statement saying,"..We are missing Veronica like crazy and anxious to see, and talk to, and hold her again."

"There's no parent that should have to have that conversation with their child to say, 'Hey, you're going somewhere else and you won't be able to see me again,'" Brown said.

South Carolina's Supreme Court will now decide what's in Veronica's best interests: life with her biological father or the couple who raised her for two years.

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