Holding court with Oklahoma media on Wednesday, the South Carolina adoptive family of 3-year-old "Baby Veronica" pleaded for compromise with the child's biological father.
Melanie Capobianco told reporters that when they arrived in Oklahoma on Tuesday night, she and her husband requested a meeting with Veronica, "but our request was denied."
Veronica's adoption was finalized in South Carolina on July 31 and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling on Aug. 2.
Nowata resident Dusten Brown, the girl's biological father, was ordered by the South Carolina court on Aug. 6 to immediately transfer custody of the girl after he missed a court-ordered visitation with Veronica and the Capobiancos and failed to send a proxy in his place while he was at National Guard training in Iowa.
A warrant was issued for Brown's arrest on Saturday for "custodial interference." Brown turned himself in to Sequoyah County authorities on Monday and was released on bond. He refused extradition unless ordered by Oklahoma authorities.
Brown has lobbied for custody based on the Indian Child Welfare Act and said it favors him raising Veronica because he is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Veronica's whereabouts are not known, only that she is being cared for by Brown's parents and his wife in Oklahoma.
In prepared statements, the Capobiancos said they are disappointed court orders have not been followed, and that they consider the U.S. Supreme Court to be the end of the road.
"We want our courts to be honored," a spokesperson for the Capobiancos said.
The couple brought with them Enid High School graduate Troy Dunn, known for his TV show "The Locator." Dunn said he volunteered to reunite the girl with the Capobiancos and mediate a compromise between the two families, because he has a personal connection to the case.
"In 1983, my parents adopted a newborn Oklahoman, my little brother, my best friend," Dunn said.
Dunn said that at the time of the adoption, the Indian Child Welfare Act was only five years old, and "it brought fear to our house," because, he claimed, children were being ripped from non-American Indian adoptive families in favor of being raised within the tribes.
Dunn called the battle for Veronica a "bizarre case" and said he's eager to see a resolution. He invited Brown to a one-on-one meeting to discuss compromise.
"I hope that a resolution can be sculpted immediately," Dunn said, as he used the news cameras to urge Brown to talk with him. "No lawyers. No tribal representation. Just you and me... if you're interested in exploring a real resolution."
On Tuesday, Matt Capobianco told Charleston reporters he and his wife would be coming to Oklahoma to get their daughter and "bring her home."
On Wednesday, he said the couple will not ambush the Browns and try to physically remove the child.
"We don't want to scare our daughter with some kind of confrontation." Matt Capobianco said. "That's not in her best interests."
The Capobiancos were present at Veronica's birth and raised her for two years. The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered them to turn her over to Brown in January 2011, citing the Indian Child Welfare Act.
In a 5-4 opinion in June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision and said Dusten Brown was not entitled to custody of the child based on the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Supreme Court ruled ICWA was designed to counteract the unwarranted removal of American Indian children from American Indian families. According to the majority opinion, because the biological father didn't seek custody of Veronica until several months after her birth, the law doesn't apply.
The high court said it could not allow a biological father to abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother, then "play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother's decision and the child's best interests."
The South Carolina court reconvened and ruled Veronica was to be returned to the Capobiancos.
When the adoption was finalized in South Carolina two weeks ago, a seven-day transition plan to ease the change of custody on Veronica was proposed. A judge tossed out the plan when Brown did not send a proxy with Veronica to visit with the Capobiancos on Aug. 3.
Veronica's biological mother has supported the adoption by the Capobiancos and sued the U.S. Attorney General, claiming ICWA is unconstitutional.
"We don't seek victory," Melanie Capobianco said. "There is none in this type of situation. We seek the peace of our daughter."
Supporters of both the Capobiancos and Brown gathered outside the news conference holding signs and wearing sandwich boards.
Signs in support of Brown declared, "Culture Matters" and "Cherokee Children Not For Sale."
Brown's team and the Cherokee Nation has said his legal options to keep custody of Veronica haven't run out in tribal and Oklahoma courts, and because of that, his arrest was premature.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a rendition request on Tuesday, urging Oklahoma authorities to surrender Brown to the Lowcountry courts. Fallin said she would not act on the request until Brown has his day in court on Sept. 12, when he will fight the legality of his weekend arrest.
After that time and a review of the case, "should that request adhere to the letter and spirit of the law, I will sign it," Fallin said on Tuesday.
Fallin released a statement Wednesday morning that said she is willing to act sooner if Brown doesn't comply with "reasonable expectations."
"Mr. and Mrs. Capobianco deserve an opportunity to meet with their adopted daughter," Fallin said. "They also deserve the chance to meet with Mr. Brown and put an end to this conflict. 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."
After the Governor updated her stance, Brown's attorney released the following statement:
"The South Carolina court's determination of this issue was based upon facts as they existed almost two years ago. 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. We'll reach out to the Capobianco's counsel to see if a resolution in Veronica's best interest can be reached. We hope the present impasse can be quickly resolved."
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