No changes in family court for Dusten Brown, Veronica
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Nothing changed Wednesday afternoon in family court for attorneys pleading Dusten Brown's custody case.
And nothing changed in Tulsa for the adoptive couple hoping to see their daughter for the first time in 19 months. A statement released early Thursday morning by the Capobianco family says they still have not been granted access to Veronica.
"Although we have not personally heard from Dusten, we plan to continue pursuing the option of facilitation aside from ongoing legal actions," the statement read.
As far as South Carolina is concerned, Matt and Melanie Capobianco are 3-year-old Veronica's rightful parents. In family court Wednesday, a judge upheld an earlier ruling on custody of Veronica.
A judge heard arguments from Brown's attorney over new provisions to the enforcement order issued Aug. 5. The order called for the immediate transition of Veronica from Brown to her adoptive parents.
The judge on Wednesday said he would consider some of the suggested provisions, but would not change the overall custody decision.
"Judge has taken certain of those issues under advisement but, one thing is very clear today he is not altering or amending in anyway his order that Veronica is to be placed forthwith the adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco," said James Fletcher Thompson, an attorney for the Capobiancos.
After the hearing, Brown's attorney said the judge would act quickly on the custody order, but said Brown still had rights.
"He is a loving father. Every court that looks at this contends, has found that he is a loving father. He still has rights. He still has procedures that he can pursue in Oklahoma. And, his lawyers intend to see that just as any other citizen in this country, Mr. Brown rights are protected," John Nichols said.
In a hearing that was held nearly half a continent away from its primary players, the judge allowed the Capobiancos' extended family to observe the hearing. The Capobiancos, Brown, and Veronica are all in Oklahoma currently, trying to sort of what happens next.
The first part of the day started from a conference room in a downtown Tulsa hotel, where the adoptive couple of a 3-year-old Indian girl pleaded with the girl's birth father to strike an accord with them.
"We want to see a resolution for Veronica," Melanie Capobianco said.
She said that when the Capobiancos arrived in Tulsa Tuesday night, they asked Dusten Brown, Veronica's birth father, for a meeting with Veronica. She said the request was denied because it was not in Veronica's best interests.
Melanie Capobianco said the rejection broke her heart.
For the first time, the couple introduced one of the many volunteers who have been working on the Capobiancos' side. Troy Dunn, a man Jessica Munday described as an adoption reunion facilitator, said he had worked in adoptions for 24 years and dealt with 40,000 reunions.
Dunn said what got him involved in the case was his younger brother, a Native American boy adopted by his family at an early age.
"I knew I needed to help in any way possible," Dunn said, describing the ongoing battle a bizarre series of events.
He said his role was to bring closure for the two families and the 3-year-old girl caught in the middle.
"I will meet you tonight. I will meet tomorrow morning. I will meet all weekend," Dunn said, addressing Brown. "Contact me today."
The Cherokee Nation, however, told the James Island couple to wait for due process to run its course in the case.
"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," a statement from the tribe reads. "We will continue to stand by Dusten and his biological daughter, Veronica, and for what is right."
Matt Capobianco, a man who made good on his promise to travel to Oklahoma for his daughter on Monday, said they were there to get Veronica. Backed by decisions from every court from South Carolina to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said the only conclusion would be Veronica's return to James Island.
"If there's some thoughtful solution that continues to involve all who love her, this is the time," he said. "If it takes another week, another month, another decade, we're not going anywhere."
Resolution and compromise underscored the messages from the Capobiancos, Munday and Dunn during the press conference. That message continued with a meeting between Veronica's birth mother, Christinna Maldonado, the Capobiancos and an unnamed Oklahoma Senator.
However, the words outside the Tulsa hotel were loud and angry as protesters gathered to announce their support for one of the two families.
"The laws of Oklahoma are being trambled," screamed one elderly lady at a man in a Guy Fawkes mask holding signs that called for Veronica's return. "He never gave up custody! He never gave up custody!"
"We know the truth," the masked man said.
"You've stolen a child," she screamed at the man.
Nearby, a group of pro-Brown protesters held signs saying "Cherokee Children Are Not For Sale."
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said after the press conference that she thought the Capobiancos should be able to meet with their adopted daughter and with Brown to end the fight.
"It is important for Veronica's sake that Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family resolve this matter quickly and grant closure to all parties. 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," Fallin said.
Clark Brewster, Brown's attorney in Oklahoma, agreed that both sides needed to consider Veronica's best interests first. He said that he would be reaching out to the Capobiancos' legal team to find a resolution.
"The South Carolina court's determination of this issue was based upon facts as they existed almost two years ago," he said. "We are fully in favor of a present day determination of Veronica's best interest to be made by a court in the state where Veronica has lived for the past 19 months."
Meanwhile, Veronica continues to stay with her biological grandparents. Since posting bail, Brown's exact whereabouts are a bit of a mystery, according to Charleston County law enforcement officials.
The Capobiancos and Browns have been in a long custody battle for Veronica, who was taken in by the Capobiancos at birth and cared for during the first 27 months of her life by the James Island couple.
Then a ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court changed that, sending the girl to Oklahoma with her biological father to live for the last 19 months.
After a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and subsequent ruling reversing its previous decision by the state Supreme Court, a Charleston family court finalized the adoption and ordered the beginning of the transition process for the girl who turns 4 next month.
But that transition plan never really started.
Brown and Veronica did not appear at the court-determined meeting place for the first four-hour meeting, which triggered a chain of events that led to a warrant for Brown's arrest, a hunt for him across three states, a governor's warrant, and a now the Capobiancos' appearance in Tulsa.
Brown as well as his new criminal attorney Clark Brewster have maintained that they will comply with court orders. Brewster said Tuesday, that there are currently appeals being considered by the South Carolina family courts, so the adoption was not final until those were resolved.
The hearing for those complaints started and ended Wednesday afternoon - 1,100 miles away from the press conference, the two families, Veronica, and the Cherokee Nation - in Charleston.