Hearings over, mediation deal reached in Veronica custody case

Protesters gather outside the Cherokee County courthouse Friday. (Source: KTUL)

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Okla. (WCIV) -- An Oklahoma court filed a mediation agreement on Friday between the adoptive parents and biological father of a 3-year-old Indian girl locked in a years long custody battle.

After three hours locked in a Cherokee County courthouse room, the two sides moved their arguments several blocks away to a Cherokee Nation tribal court hearing. That tribal court hearing was supposed to concern Veronica's guardianship.

What the hearings mean for either side of the custody battle is a mystery.

In Oklahoma, Veronica's grandfather shook his head when reporters asked him if he had any good news to report from the hearings. But in Charleston, an attorney for Dusten Brown said it had been a good day for Veronica and her clients in Oklahoma.

According to Fox affiliate KOKI, a Cherokee Nation representative said there will be another hearing for the Browns and the Capobiancos in the next 18 days. Until then, the two sides are supposed to be in negotiations.

The girl is currently under the care of her biological father's parents and has still not seen her adoptive parents since she was taken from their James Island home Dec. 31, 2011.

Both sides emerged from the courthouses without giving comment. Clark Brewster, Dusten Brown's attorney, said he was unable to give a statement.

The earlier custody hearing came after Matt and Melanie Capobianco filed for a writ of habeas corpus Thursday afternoon, a filing that was sparked by the family's attorneys learning of an 11 a.m. Friday hearing with the Cherokee tribal court.

"The Capobiancos and Veronica's birth mother were intentionally excluded from the hearing. After 19 long months of trying this case in local family courts, state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown has determined yet again his intent to continue to drag this unfortunate situation out further,"Jessica Munday, the adoptive family's spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Munday said Brown's "roadblocks" forced their Oklahoma court filing.

"Veronica does not need nor deserve any more court hearings," Munday said. "Veronica deserves for this to be over!"

According to court documents obtained by CNN, Dusten Brown was ordered to appear with Veronica at Cherokee County District Court at 9 a.m. CST. Brown, as well as his wife, Robin, and his parents, who have temporary guardianship of Veronica, were also named in the suit.

Munday said news of the tribal court hearing came as attorneys appeared to have reached a deal that would put the Capobiancos in a room with Veronica, their adoptive daughter.

Jessica Munday, the adoptive family's spokeswoman, said attorneys for Brown and the Capobiancos have opened the door on a personal visit with Veronica.

But there's a catch to that meeting: the Capobiancos want one-on-one time with Veronica. Dusten Brown is not invited, Munday confirmed Thursday night.

"[They want] an opportunity to hold her, hug her and tell her how much they love her and that they never abandoned her," Munday said.

The details of that meeting have yet to be set.

At the same time, the adoption mediator who volunteered his time for the Capobianco family was turned away from a Cherokee Nation school on Thursday, tribe officials said.

According to a statement from Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree, Troy Dunn showed up at a Cherokee Nation school with a TV crew during the day Thursday and was turned away by Cherokee Marshal.

But before Dunn was sent away, he located Dusten Brown and delivered a note to him asking to talk. Brown responded: "I'm not interested in talking."

"His antics are inappropriate and dangerous. The safety and well-being of our children is our first priority," Hembree said. "His shenanigans and grandstanding is purely for the cameras and self-promotion."

The tribe's Attorney General said he was concerned with Dunn's appearance at Wednesday's press conference held by the Capobiancos in Tulsa.

"Mr. Dunn's Internet presence reveals that he is a reality TV producer, a stand-up comedian and a 'motivational{}speaker.' He is neither a counselor nor mental health expert although he perpetuates that illusion on TV," Hembree said.

Dunn said Wednesday he had worked in adoptions and reunions for 24 years and had been a part of 40,000 reunions. He called on Dusten Brown, Veronica's birth father, to meet with him and find some sort of compromise.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the James Island couple awarded custody of 3-year-old Veronica by the courts, made good on a promise to show up in Oklahoma to get their daughter back from Brown.

On Monday, Matt Capobianco used strong language, describing Brown's actions as "kidnapping," and said he would come for his daughter is state and federal authorities did not act.

On Wednesday, the tone from the Capobiancos was much more conciliatory, and again offered Brown and the Cherokee Nation an olive branch in the form of a custody that would keep Veronica connected to her American Indian roots.

Oklahoma's governor agreed with the Capobiancos, saying the couple deserved the opportunity to meet with Brown and their daughter. She urged Brown to facilitate a meeting at the risk of her expediting an order for extradition for Brown.{}

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a governor's warrant earlier this week and sent to the Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. Fallin said she would wait until after Brown's Sept. 12 court hearing to act on Haley's request.

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.