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

Veronica case: Motion filed to suspend visits from Capobiancos

It is unclear whether Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the James Island, S.C., couple attempting to adopt the child, have actually met with the girl and if so, how often, since arriving in Oklahoma two weeks ago.


Matt and Melanie Copabianco (back left and right) arrive at Cherokee Nation Courthouse on Aug. 16 for a custody hearing involving a 3-year-old Cherokee girl they are trying to adopt.LISA SNELL | NATIVE TIMES PHOTO
Matt and Melanie Copabianco (back left and right) arrive at Cherokee Nation Courthouse on Aug. 16 for a custody hearing involving a 3-year-old Cherokee girl they are trying to adopt.

25 August 2013



TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A motion is now on file to suspend any visits between a non-Native South Carolina couple and the three-year-old Cherokee child they have been attempting to adopt for almost four years.


According to docket sheets posted Sunday on the On Demand Court Records system, Angel Smith, the court-appointed attorney for Cherokee Nation citizen Veronica Brown, filed the motion Friday in Cherokee County District Court, along with a request for a hearing to revisit the matter.


Smith was appointed in Cherokee County District Court on Aug. 19 after representing the child in Cherokee Nation District Court for almost a month. She is also Brown’s representative in a federal lawsuit filed last month by the Native American Rights Fund, the National Indian Child Welfare Association and the National Congress of American Indians.


It is unclear whether Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the James Island, S.C., couple attempting to adopt the child, have actually met with the girl and if so, how often, since arriving in Oklahoma two weeks ago. The Capobiancos were awarded custody of the child last month by a South Carolina family court judge, but the order has not been enforced in Oklahoma.


Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has threatened to sign off on an extradition warrant for Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, if he did not allow the couple to see the girl. Brown is wanted in South Carolina for custodial interference after missing a court-ordered visitation with the Capobiancos and an adoption investigator earlier this month while he was at National Guard training in Iowa. He has since turned himself in to Sequoyah County law enforcement and has a hearing scheduled for Sept. 12 in Sallisaw.


Along with Smith’s motions, the Capobiancos have filed their own motions with the court objecting to the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent Veronica Brown’s best interests during the court proceedings, as well as their objection to Smith’s appointment as the three-year-old’s lawyer.


Additionally, special judge Holli Wells entered an order of recusal Friday, excusing herself from future proceedings in the case.


Thanks to a gag order issued by both the Cherokee County District Court and the Cherokee Nation District Court and a seal on all related documents, no details are available about the flurry of Friday filings other than the docket sheet line items. Earlier this month, the two sides agreed to mediation, but it is unclear whether those talks have started and if so, how they have progressed. It is also unclear what, if any, challenges were filed in Oklahoma to the South Carolina family court’s order granting custody to the Capobiancos. Under Oklahoma statute, Brown and his attorneys had until Friday to do so.

Idle No More event in Seattle for Veronica Brown




The Idle No More Washington Facebook page has arranged a rally for supporters of Veronica Brown, the Indian Child Welfare Act and the 1839 Cherokee Constitution Signing. The rally is set to coincide with these happenings going on within Indian country and other rallies currently happening around the country. The event page states:


In solidarity with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma we are gathering to celebrate the signing of the Cherokee Constitution. The celebration pays homage to the tribe’s strength. It also pays tribute to the past, when the Cherokee’s were driven from the Deep South on the “Trail of Tears.” On this Signing Day, they’ll be saluting Veronica too.


Please join us to take a stand for the Indian Child Welfare Act and why the Supreme Court trying to overstep the sovereign rights of Native peoples must be stopped. Support the Brown family in the return of their daughter. This is a peaceful rally; bring your drums, songs, and prayers.


Idle No More Washington – Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown

Monday September 2, 2013

From 1pm -3pm

Westlake Park
401 Pine Street
Seattle, WA 98101

Visit the Facebook event page here for more information-


The Gloves Come Off: Civil Rights Suit Filed as Adoption of Veronica Finalized

Suzette Brewer, Indian Country Today Media Network

Before the adoption of Veronica Brown to Matt and Melanie Capobianco was finalized yesterday in a South Carolina courtroom, the Native American Rights Fund made good on its promised Civil Rights litigation, filing a complaint late Tuesday night in federal district court on behalf of the girl’s right to due process in a “meaningful hearing” to determine her best interest. The courts in South Carolina failed to “take into account or require any inquiry” regarding Veronica’s current circumstances before approving the transition plan provided by Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island.

RELATED: Baby Veronica Must Return to Adoptive Parents

Supreme Court Thwarts ICWA Intent in Baby Veronica Case

Anger Erupts Across Indian Country Over Baby Veronica Ruling

Native American Rights Fund: Stop the Forced Removal of Baby Veronica

Additionally, the suit (V.B. v. Daniel E. Martin, Family Court for the Ninth Judicial Circuit) declares that Veronica is a tribal member and remains an “Indian Child” under the Indian Child Welfare Act, and therefore she “possesses a federally protected right” to a best interest hearing under federal law.

Supported by dozens of tribes, civil rights and child welfare groups, adoption advocacy organizations, legal authorities and Native American groups, the complaint seeks federal jurisdiction over the case, as well as an injunction prohibiting South Carolina courts from further proceedings pending a full and “meaningful” best interest hearing.

Angel Smith, an Oklahoma attorney appointed by the Cherokee Nation to represent Veronica as a tribal member, filed the motion on the girl’s behalf.

The Cherokee Nation reacted swiftly to the finalization of the adoption and transition plan in South Carolina.

“Today, a Family Court in South Carolina finalized the adoption of an almost 4-year-old Cherokee child who has been living with her unquestionably fit, loving, biological father and large extended family, for one year and seven months, half a continent away in Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation,” said Chrissi Nimmo, assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. “This decision was made without a hearing to determine what is in Veronica’s current best interests and comes almost two years after the same Family Court found that Dusten Brown was a fit, loving parent and it would be in Veronica’s best interests to be placed with her father. Every parent in America should be terrified.

Dusten Brown is an honorable man and a good father. Cherokee Nation will continue to support Dusten, Veronica and the entire Brown family in their attempt to keep their family whole.”

Dusten Brown, who is currently in training with the National Guard, also issued the following statement:

“Our family is shocked and deeply saddened that the South Carolina Supreme Court has refused to allow Veronica’s best interest to be considered. Even worse, that Court issued an order they acknowledge will cause my daughter to suffer harm. The Court gave its blessing to the transition plan offered by the Capobiancos that says upon transfer to them, Veronica will be ‘fearful, scared, anxious, confused,’” said Brown.

“They say she will likely become quiet and withdrawn and may cry herself to sleep. That the transfer will cause ‘grief’ and ‘loss’ and she will feel ‘rejected’ by me and her family. They say it will leave her with many ‘unanswered questions.’ I will not voluntarily let my child go through that, no parent would. I am her father and it is my job to protect her. My family and I continue to pray that the justice system bring justice to Veronica.”

RELATED: Inseparable Sisters: Adoption Order Exacts Toll on Baby Veronica’s Family

But legal experts acknowledged that the fight over custody of Veronica is not only not over, but has now moved into a whole new level of litigation. In spite of South Carolina’s ruling yesterday, enforcement in Oklahoma courts will now be the focus of the case.

“Everything will now move to Washington County, Oklahoma, where Veronica now resides,” said a legal scholar who asked for anonymity because of the ongoing litigation. “But it will require a bit of time for any order to be domesticated in that state. You may have an order from South Carolina, but guess what? Veronica’s not in South Carolina. She’s been domiciled in Oklahoma for 19 months and there’s no way a court in Oklahoma is going to approve enforcement of this order without a normal, legal checklist of things that would be required for any other child up that’s been put up for adoption, not to mention a child who is a tribal member and is living with a biological parent.”

For example, the adoption was finalized without a current homestudy or psychological evaluation of any of the parties involved, which legal and child welfare experts say are standard operating procedures.

“It’s called giving ‘full faith and credit’ to another state’s order,” said the expert. “[The legal team] is going to go into court to argue that full faith and credit should not be given to the South Carolina order because the courts there did not follow the law. And Oklahoma, quite frankly, does not have to give full faith and credit if Veronica’s constitutional right to due process has been denied.”

Additionally, observers say that because jurisdiction has been shifted to Oklahoma, the gloves have now come off in a state that was originally founded as “Indian Territory.” With nearly 40 tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma has the second largest American Indian population in the United States. And they have watched the events in Adoptive Couple unfold in South Carolina with growing alarm and disgust.

“How is it that Paul Clement, who wasn’t even a party in this case, walks into the United States Supreme Court and insults every Indian tribe in the country by making this case about blood quantum and fiercely advocating for a ‘best interest’ hearing, only to have it shot down in South Carolina because the judges there think it’s too hard?” asks one Tulsa lawyer who works exclusively in ICWA cases. “It simply boggles the mind that any court would callously disregard the most important party in this case: Veronica herself. The fight is definitely not over.”

Lori Alvino McGill, the attorney for birth mother Christy Maldonado, today dismissed the federal suit to stop the finalization of the adoption as a “publicity stunt,” as tribes across the country continue to unify in support of Veronica and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

RELATED: Baby Veronica’s Mother Finally Speaks Out About Court Case

Baby Veronica’s Birth Mother Files Suit, Claims ICWA Unconstitutional

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Capobiancos filed their response to Dusten Brown’s request to the U.S. Supreme Court that the South Carolina courts postpone finalization of the adoption until a best interest determination hearing could be held. Chief Justice John Roberts, an adoptive parent himself who sided with the majority against Brown, oversees emergency petitions for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes South Carolina.

Sources in Washington have pointed out that Alvino McGill’s role in Adoptive Couple is more than that of a spokesperson for Christy Maldonado. As it turns out, Chief Justice Roberts and former solicitor general Ted Olson, both of whom sided with the Capobiancos, attended Ms. Alvino McGill’s 2006 wedding to Matthew McGill who, coincidentally, was a clerk for John Roberts in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Therefore, given the cozy nature and small world influence in the Capitol’s legal circles, observers say it was no surprise when Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl was granted petition of certiorari in January.

“Dusten Brown never had a chance,” said the source. “His biggest sin was that he got on the wrong side of the billion dollar U.S. adoption industry and he was winning. [The Supreme Court] knew this when they took cert on this case, otherwise, why would they bother with a custody dispute that should have been nipped in the bud four years ago? And the sad part is that he’s rehabilitated himself in every way in this case. He’s gone to every length to keep his child, he’s done everything asked of him. But it is a system that was stacked against him from the beginning. This is Worcester v. Georgia all over again.”

After the South Carolina court’s ruling finalizing the adoption of his daughter, Dusten Brown made a direct plea to the Capobiancos.

“To Matt and Melanie Capobianco I want to say this: Please, for Veronica’s sake, just stop. Stop, and ask yourself if you really believe this is best for her.”