Judge orders removal after Veronica misses visitation

TULSA, Okla. (WCIV) -- A judge ordered the immediate transfer of Veronica to her adoptive family on James Island Monday after her birth father missed a court-ordered visitation a day earlier, case officials confirmed.

The Post and Courier initially reported the judge's order for authorities to step in and stop the transition plan that was meant to re-acclimate the 3-year-old back into life with Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

According to court documents, a state-certified adoption investigator said in an affidavit filed Sunday that she and the Capobiancos were at the determined meeting location earlier that day for the initial four-hour meeting, but no one from the tribe, Brown's family or Veronica showed up at the location.

As a result, the judge signed the order to immediately transfer Veronica to the Capobiancos. He gave the two sides until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to deliver any information as to the whereabouts of the nearly-4-year-old girl.

The order was also sent to Brown's commanding officer in the Army National Guard. Brown is currently deployed out of state for training, tribe officials have said.

The transition plan was agreed to last week in a Charleston family courtroom after the girl's birth father, Dusten Brown, and the Cherokee Nation fell short in their appeals to the court for a new hearing.

The Capobiancos' spokesperson, Jessica Munday, denied requests to comment on the case, as did the attorney for Christinna Maldonado, the birth mother.{}

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said her office was called upon to assist in the case.

"We are working on a plan regarding the judge's unexpected order. We had no notice that we would be called upon to get involved. I am in contact with law enforcement are determining the best way to proceed," she said in a statement Monday night.

The Cherokee Nation late Monday night issued a statement defending Brown.

"It is disgusting to insinuate criminal misconduct or wrongdoing on Dusten's behalf. He is in another state for mandatory National Guard training, which all parties and the court have known for a least two weeks. It is physically and legally impossible for Dusten to comply with the current order," said Assistant Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation Chrissi Nimmo. "This is another ploy to paint Dusten as the 'bad guy.' It is especially appalling while he is serving his country."

Nimmo said the Capobiancos have taken legal steps to enforce the South Carolina court order in Oklahoma, where Veronica is currently living. Nimmo said legal challenges from the Cherokee Nation were probable."To manufacture this media frenzy is unnecessary and harmful to all involved," she said.

Last week, Brown's attorney released a statement from Brown saying, as a father, he would not voluntarily agree to the court's order to remove his biological daughter.

The court documents show that the Capobiancos were supposed to meet with Veronica and Brown's relatives Sunday afternoon in a short, introductory meeting, but Veronica did not show up to the meeting.

Before the South Carolina Supreme Court issued its decree to the family court to move ahead with the adoption based on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, the Cherokee Nation issued a statement saying the state court ruled in error because it was not aware the tribe had granted temporary custody to Brown's family.

The United States Supreme Court on Friday afternoon denied Brown's request for a stay of judgement in the adoption of his biological daughter. In a three-sentence order from Chief Justice John Roberts, the court denied Brown's request, adding that Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg would allow the stay.

Nimmo said Friday that Brown is unquestionably a fit parent. She says she can't understand how a South Carolina judge on Wednesday could have issued an order finalizing the adoption of a child living with a fit biological parent.

The girl's biological mother hand-picked the South Carolina couple to adopt her daughter, and they raised her for two years while seeking to adopt her.

Courts awarded Brown custody in 2011 under the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.

The Supreme Court overturned the state's ruling, however, saying the use of ICWA was incorrect and sent the decision back to South Carolina's highest court to render a new decision without ICWA.

Five Indian tribes have filed suit, saying Veronica's civil rights have been violated by South Carolina's decision to allow her adoption to go through. It is unclear if that case will pick up any momentum in stopping the adoption.