Contempt of court charges dropped against Veronica’s birth father

 

Staff reports The Post and Courier January 16, 2014

 Contempt of court charges against Dusten Brown, Veronica’s birth father, have been dropped, according to an Oklahoma newspaper.

Veronica, now 4 years old, was caught in the middle of an internationally publicized custody dispute involving her Native American heritage.

Brown, who lives in Oklahoma, faced contempt charges for refusing to comply with a Charleston County Family Court order to return Veronica to her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island.

The court dropped that charge Thursday, according to the Tulsa World.

Brown still faces a criminal complaint of custodial interference in South Carolina.

Gov. Nikki Haley dropped efforts to extradite him, but the warrant is still active.

Brown also remains part of an Oklahoma civil case in which the Capobiancos’ attorneys are seeking to recoup more than $1 million in fees and legal expenses incurred during the custody battle.

Veronica’s birth mother gave her up for adoption to the Capobiancos shortly after she was born in September 2009.

Brown, who is part Cherokee, said his daughter was given up without his knowledge when he was getting ready to deploy to Iraq. Veronica’s mother argued he wasn’t involved in her life.

With the help of attorneys from the Cherokee Nation, Brown sued for custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was designed to keep Native American families intact. Brown gained custody in December 2011, when Veronica was 27 months old.

The Capobiancos appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and were reunited with Veronica last September, when she was 4.

Dusten Brown: You Fought a Good Fight!

By Levi Rickert, Native News Network

TULSA – Cherokee Nation citizen Dusten Brown’s four-year long custody battle came to an end this week Thursday when Brown announced he was ending all legal litigation pending in Oklahoma to regain custody of his four year old daughter, Veronica.

dusten brown, photo of the week

This young brave warrior has the admiration of thousands in Indian country.

 

This hotly disputed custody battle spanned two states: South Carolina and Oklahoma. And, the case, known as “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,” even reached the US Supreme Court.

By Thursday, Brown sat in the offices of his attorney offices with Cherokee Nation Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo, who also announced the Tribe was ending its litigation to assist Brown in his efforts.

A tearful and much broken Brown sat there in a French blue shirt reading his statement. Any humane person could see the genuine deep love he has for Veronica. Equally, one could see how Brown is hurting by the removal of Veronica from his and his family’s lives.

One was struck with his youthfulness that did not always come through in other photos that were captured through the past several months as he and his wife, Robin, walked in and out of courthouses. At one point Thursday, as I saw him speaking, I thought:

“He is so young.”

This young brave warrior has the admiration of thousands in Indian country. He fought for his country as a member of the Oklahoma National Guard in Iraq where he earned medals. And, quite frankly, his country’s legal system let him disgustingly and drastically failed him and his family.

But, most important, Brown fought for his daughter, Veronica. Indian country knows there are many natural fathers – both Native and non-Native – who simply walk away from their responsibilities as fathers. Dusten Brown did not. He fought until the bitter end.

“To Veronica: One day you will read about this time in your life. Never, ever, for one second, doubt how much I love you, how hard I fought for you or how much you mean to me.”

“I miss you more than words can express. You’ll always be my little girl …and I will always love you until the day I die,”

Dusten said.

To Dusten Brown:

Indian country admires and respects you and prays the Creator will fill the large hole in your heart with a balm that will heal your heart.

You fought a good fight!

Cherokee Nation Mourns as Veronica Is Returned to Adoptive Family

Suzette Brewer, Indian Country Today Media Network

In the end, it came down to one simple strategy: Waiting. As Dusten Brown faced the Damocles Sword of jail time and a felony warrant, Matt and Melanie Capobianco only had to wait.

Last week, as the clock was running down on the stay that the Oklahoma Supreme Court had granted him, Dusten Brown had tried to negotiate even a bare minimum of visitation with his daughter. At the beginning of the week, there was a hopeful offer that included three weeks in the summer, one weekend every other month in South Carolina, and with alternating Christmases, which seemed like a solid deal. But as the parties returned to court on Wednesday morning, the Capobiancos again reneged and the negotiations started all over again.

By Friday afternoon, they made one last half-hearted offer in which Brown would get to see his daughter roughly 10 hours a month in South Carolina, with supervision. But even that, according to insiders, was not written to include any kind of enforcement.

Even before they were virtually forced into mediation in a courthouse in Tulsa last week, Dusten Brown had tried to negotiate a settlement with the Capobiancos for months, which they outright rejected.

In spite of their public proclamations that they had “always” insisted that they would allow Veronica to stay in contact with her paternal biological family, behind the scenes insiders say it was apparent to the Brown family and their lawyers that the Capobiancos weren’t interested in negotiating any kind of deal at all. This fact alone is one of the reasons Dusten Brown had fought so vociferously and publicly to force them to the negotiating table.

But even then, the negotiations were merely photo opportunities in which they were photographed arriving and leaving the courthouse in downtown Tulsa. Once inside, they had no pretense about their intentions. All they had to do was wait; no matter what Dusten Brown did or did not agree to, he was going to jail, say insiders.

After the “negotiations” failed again on Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted their stay, which allowed Veronica to remain with Brown while he continued to seek legal redress in Oklahoma.

Exhausted and left with few options other than jail time and the loss of his military career and pension, he discussed her peaceful transfer with his family, legal team and tribal officials. He and his wife, Robin, packed a few bags for Veronica, who had just turned four-years-old last week. Before the family gathered to say their last goodbyes, Tommy Brown, Veronica’s grandfather, began suffering chest pains and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

At 7:30, a caravan of federal marshals made their way to the Jack Brown House in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a guest residence near the Cherokee Nation tribal complex where the Browns had been staying for several months to maintain their privacy.

Chrissi Nimmo, the assistant attorney general for the tribe, took Veronica’s hand and led her to the waiting SUV that was to take her to the Capobiancos.

After a four-year struggle to keep his daughter, one that led the shy, unassuming soldier all the way to the Supreme Court and beyond, it was over.

As the Brown family went to the hospital to visit their patriarch, the Capobiancos went on another media blitz, starting with a live interview on CNN.

As word of the transfer began to go viral, condolences for Dusten Brown and his daughter began pouring in from all over the country.

“We are deeply, deeply saddened by the events of today, but we will not lose hope,” said Todd Hembree, attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. “Veronica Brown will always be a Cherokee citizen, and although she may have left the Cherokee Nation, she will never leave our hearts.”

“Our hearts are heavy at this course of events,” said Terry Cross, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. “Any other child would have had her or his best interest considered in a court of law. The legal system has failed this child and American Indians as well. Our prayers are with everyone concerned, but most of all with Veronica.”

Experts say that because of Veronica’s current age, she will experience trauma and homesickness. But adult adoptees who have been watching from the sidelines are all-too-familiar with the challenges that lay ahead for a little girl who is cognizant enough to know what has transpired.

In Oklahoma, she was surrounded by her large extended family, which included her grandparents, her father and stepmother, her sister, Kelsey, from Brown’s first marriage and a chatty phalanx of half a dozen cousins, with whom she had grown close. She had made friends at pre-school and loved her pets. She was a spark of lightning with a sharp mind and quick to giggle, a girl who loved pink and shoes.

In South Carolina, Veronica will be the only child on both sides of her adoptive parents’ families. The Capobiancos, both of whom are in their mid-40s, have no other extended family nearby, save for a stepmother who was divorced from Melanie’s father before he passed away.

Time will tell what the ultimate outcome will be for Veronica, who will undoubtedly be given the best of what the Capobiancos can afford in terms of education and the trappings of an older, upper middle income childless couple. Nonetheless, so far in her young life, she brought attention to the corrupt and broken system of illegal adoptions that are taking place every day throughout Indian Country. In spite of her removal from Oklahoma, Veronica Brown paved the way for other children to remain with their communities and families, bringing attention to the loopholes and cracks in the Indian Child Welfare Act that allow attorneys, social workers, guardian ad litems and judges to continue profiting from a very profitable industry adoption and foster care industry that traffics Native babies and children.

“We hope the Capobiancos honor their word that Dusten will be allowed to remain an important part of Veronica’s life,” said Hembree. “We also look forward to her visiting the Cherokee Nation for many years to come, for she is always welcome. Veronica is a very special child who touched the hearts of many, and she will be sorely missed.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/09/24/cherokee-nation-mourns-veronica-returned-adoptive-family-151418

South Carolina officers in Oklahoma for Indian custody case

 

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon sends deputies, SLED agent to Oklahoma in Veronica case

 

Glenn Smith The Post and Courier

August 29, 2013

 

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon confirmed today that he has sent two of his deputies and a State Law Enforcement Division agent to Oklahoma in connection with the contentious custody case concerning 3-year-old Veronica.

Cannon confirmed the information in response to questions from The Post and Courier. He said the team, which left this morning, was dispatched as a precautionary measure in the event their assistance was needed in connection with upcoming court proceedings in the case.

The sheriff stressed that he has not been informed of any major development or action in the case. Rather, his office has been in ongoing contact with a variety of law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and felt a responsibility to have some presence on hand to provide assistance, he said.

Cannon would not say when hearings in the case have been scheduled or what specific proceedings deputies planned to attend.

On Aug. 16, an Oklahoma judge barred attorneys and their clients from discussing the dispute pitting Veronica’s adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, against her biological father, Dusten Brown of Nowata, Okla. A mediation agreement was reached during a three-hour hearing that day, but the details have remained under seal.

The Capobiancos flew to Oklahoma earlier this month and have remained there ever since. It appears they have been allowed to visit with the girl who lived with them for 27 months, but it’s unclear when or how often that has occurred, The Tulsa World reported this week.

The newspaper also reported that an attorney appointed to represent Veronica’s interests has asked a Cherokee County court to suspend those visits until further hearings can be held.

Adding to the confusion, Holli Wells, the judge who brought the two sides together for the April 16 hearing and imposed the gag order, recently filed an “order of recusal,” removing herself from the case, The Tulsa World reported.

Brown, a member of the Cherokee tribe, used the heritage he shares with Veronica to get custody in late 2011 through the Indian Child Welfare Act. The 1978 law was meant to keep Indian children connected to their native cultures.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that the ICWA didn’t apply to him because he hadn’t been in Veronica’s life. He has argued that the child’s mother had refused his attempts to get involved when she brushed off his marriage wishes.

Courts in South Carolina later finalized the Capobiancos’ adoption of Veronica, but Brown has refused to give up the girl. His attorneys said he should be allowed to challenge the decree’s enforcement in Oklahoma, where Veronica has lived for the past 19 months.

Brown is wanted on a Charleston County custodial interference warrant for failing to turn over Veronica to the Capobiancos. His attorney has said he plans to challenge the legality of that warrant.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has said she would speed along Brown’s extradition to Charleston if he didn’t let the Capobiancos see the girl.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.

Cherokee Nation Attorney General on TV Personality Troy Dunn

Levi Rickert, Native News Network

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd HembreeCherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree

TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA – For those of you familiar with the ongoing custody battle over Cherokee Veronica Brown between her biological father, Dusten Brown and a non-Native adoptive couple from South Carolina, you may have seen Troy Dunn, from the show called “The Locator,” on the Dr. Phil Show saying disparaging things about the Indian Child Welfare Act.

On Wednesday, he showed up at a press conference held by the South Carolina couple, who flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma to attempt to sway Dusten Brown to give up his legal battle to keep his daughter.

Troy Dunn was present and said more disparaging things about the Indian Child Welfare Act. At the news conference, he called on Brown to meet one-on-one with him without attorneys or Cherokee Nation officials. Brown never responded to Dunn.

Outside the Tulsa Hyatt where the press conference was held, over a dozen supporters of Veronica and Dusten Brown were outside with signs.

“I was there to support …the bottom line is the sovereignty of every tribal nations. We have to stand up and fight for our rights and children,”

commented Linda Sacks, a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation, who was there to support the Browns.

“It’s about sovereignty …that is the ultimate thing.”

Then on Thursday, Dunn with a television camera in tow attempted to show up at a Cherokee school where Veronica was. Cherokee marshals turned him away.

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree issued the following statement late Thursday afternoon:

“I was concerned with the Capobianco’s judgment in putting forth Troy Dunn as the central spokesperson in their press conference yesterday. 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.”

“Furthermore, in his more than year long involvement with the Capobiancos, he has proven himself not to be a neutral party in this matter, he has made inflammatory statements to the media and has publicly posted degrading comments about Veronica’s real father, Dusten Brown.”

“Troy Dunn is injecting himself into a complex and emotional legal issue for which he sorely lacks any relevant skill set.”

“My concerns of yesterday were well founded in that today, Troy Dunn and his hired TV cameras were asked to leave Cherokee Nation school premises by Cherokee Nation Marshals. His antics are inappropriate and dangerous. The safety and well-being of our children is our first priority.”

“His shenanigans and grandstanding is purely for the cameras and self-promotion. Our concern has been and always will be what is in the best interest of Veronica, a beautiful and innocent Cherokee child. The Cherokee Nation is not interested in his personal entertainment endeavors and his media circus.”

“We are steadfast in our commitment to creating a safe environment for Cherokee citizens. We all want to see an amicable resolution to the Veronica Brown impasse. Sadly, Troy Dunn’s theatrics are a distraction to this very difficult issue.”

“Dusten Brown, an American war veteran, deserves his due process and Veronica deserves her privacy.”

50 Supporters were Standing Their Ground for Veronica Brown on Saturday

Source: Native News Network, August 19, 2013

TULSA, OKLAHOMA – Outside of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s office in Tulsa, on Saturday afternoon, some 50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown met with others in a crowd that included child welfare workers, single fathers, and children showing their support.

50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown

Many supporters feel it is not only about native rights but about human rights.

 

The rally consisted of family, friends, and supporters from across the country. Many carried signs reading “Fathers Have Rights Too” and “Stop Exploiting Veronica… ” as they walked up and down the road side chanting “Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown.”

50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown

“People are missing the parental rights issue. Dad’s should have a say,”

said Larry Shufeldt, a friend and supporter of Dusten and Veronica.

Shufeldt and his wife fostered five children and expressed his empathy for both sides.

“It is hard to give them up when it is time for them to go. But it is not about provision: who can provide what; it is about doing the right thing. Children belong with the biological parents,”

he commented.

50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown

Shufeldt along with many others believe the state has a position it should have upheld in the adoption process and the state is failing its citizens.

 

Supporters are convinced if the Indian Child Welfare Act, most commonly referred to as ICWA, played a part in the adoption process at all, Veronica would be with family right now in Oklahoma and this would not be an issue. Cherokee Nation citizens believe it is not a fight for one Cherokee child but a fight for all native children not just in Oklahoma but across the nation.

“We are not fighting for one Cherokee Child we are fighting for all children,”

said Lorraine Sacks, a member of Cherokee Nation.

“There are too many children that don’t have anyone to fight for them and here is a biological father doing just that and no one seems to respect it.”

A member of Muscogee Creek Nation, Johnnie Diacon relates all too well,

“I know what it is like to be adopted. I am learning things now that I should have learned as a child about my culture. Fortunately, I was adopted by another native, I had a Cherokee Father who taught me what Creek words he knew but it never filled the gap and loss of my culture. I don’t want Veronica to go through that kind of suffering and loss.”

50 supporters for Dusten and Veronica Brown

Many supporters feel it is not only about native rights but about human rights and the right to keep a biological family intact even if the family is native or even Cherokee.

 

“To the Cherokee’s, a Cherokee child is the tribe’s child and we will defend and protect our children. And that is exactly what we are doing even if Oklahoma doesn’t,”

says Sacks.

“We are standing our ground for Veronica Brown.”

The Photo that Should Not Be

Source: Native News Network

SALLISAW, OKLAHOMA – It was one of those things that should have never happened. Here was an award-winning member of the Oklahoma National Guard who fought for the United States in Iraq getting a mug shot after his arrest for not complying with a South Carolina family court order to turn over his biological daughter, Veronica.

Dusten Brown, Cherokee

Dusten Brown after his arrest for being Veronica Brown’s father

 

Here was another American Indian father being penalized for wanting to raise his own child. History is full of American Indian children being taken away. So much so, the US Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to allow more tribal input into American Indian adoptions.

Somehow the US Supreme Court decided by a close vote – five to four – that the Indian Child Welfare Act was misapplied by the South Carolina Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court remanded the case back to the South Carolina high court, who basically punted it back to the South Carolina family court.

So, once again an American Indian parent loses in court. Go figure. No, it should have never come to this.

What is more incredible, a warrant was issued in South Carolina because Veronica was not turned over “immediately” as stipulated by the family court in South Carolina. Dusten Brown was at a mandatory training by the Oklahoma National Guard in Johnston, Iowa.

Most legal experts agree, according to Oklahoma state law, Brown has until August 23 to respond to the South Carolina family court.

So, no it should have never come to this – a soldier being arrested for wanting to raise his own daughter. It should have never come to this – another American Indian losing out on the ability to raise his own child.

The mug shot should have never been taken.

But, it was and we choose it as our Photo of the Week as a reminder American Indians still have a long way to go to gain parity in these United States.

The Native News Network’s prayers are with the Dusten Brown, Veronica, and his entire family.

Baby Veronica’s Father Accused of ‘Custodial Interference’ Felony

Suzette Brewer, Indian Country Today Media Network

After Dusten Brown was charged last Monday in a Charleston, South Carolina courtroom with failing to appear on Sunday for a scheduled four-hour visitation to begin his daughter Veronica’s transition to the Capobianco’s, he was ordered to “immediately” transfer the child to the couple’s custody. Monday’s order negated the proposed plan and demanded that Veronica be brought to South Carolina with no transition.

But Brown has been in Iowa with his Oklahoma National Guard unit for a mandatory training that had been on the books since January. This was known to all parties in the dispute, including Judge Daniel Martin, who issued the order.

“They absolutely knew where this man was and that he had no physical or legal way of being present for the transition visitation with his daughter,” says a source familiar with the case. “This whole canard that he somehow flouted the law is just absurd. [Monday’s order] was nothing more than posturing and intimidation, because weren’t these the very same people who had originally proposed that they would moved to Oklahoma to ease her transition? What happened to that? How did they go from moving to Oklahoma to demanding that he magically show up in South Carolina within 48 hours of the finalization of the adoption when they know he was not even in Oklahoma? As usual, they painted him with the broad stroke that he broke the law. He did not.”

As rhetoric on both sides heated up throughout the week during appearances on multiple media outlets, it became apparent to those watching the case that the Capobiancos and their legal team were prepared to enforce the judge’s order by any means necessary—even if it meant sending Veronica’s biological father to jail.

Equally, it became apparent that Dusten Brown was prepared to dig in his heels to continue his battle to seek justice in what many are calling an “unethical adoption” in which his infant daughter should never have been taken to South Carolina in the first place.

Friday evening, doubling down on their threat to seek intervention by law enforcement, the Capobiancos pressed criminal charges against Brown in South Carolina for “custodial interference.” The felony warrant carries a five year sentence and fines at the discretion of the court.

Attorneys for the Capobiancos said that the arrest was “necessary to ensure the rule of law.” They also said that officials for the Cherokee Nation and anyone refusing to divulge Veronica’s whereabouts would be “actively assisting in an ongoing felony.”

The Cherokee Nation declined to comment on the Capobiancos’ statement.

Authorities in South Carolina had been working with Polk County, Iowa authorities, who have jurisdiction over the civilian communities surrounding Camp Dodge, to arrest Brown on Sunday morning.

But that didn’t happen.

On Saturday, the Oklahoma National Guard granted Brown emergency leave so that he could attend an emergency hearing in Cherokee Nation Tribal Court on Monday without having to go absent without leave, thereby further endangering his military career. Brown and wife, Robin, then returned to Oklahoma.

“This is a purely civil criminal matter,” Colonel Greg Hapgood, a spokesman for the Iowa National Guard, said in a brief statement. “Our job was to facilitate communication with the local authorities.”

The exact Oklahoma whereabouts of the Browns, Veronica and their extended family is unknown. The Cherokee Nation had no comment.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/08/11/dusten-brown-returns-oklahoma-evades-south-carolina-150829