Arrest Warrant Issued For Biological Father Of 'Baby Veronica'

Saturday, August 10th 2013, 1:43 pm
By: News On 6

A Nowata man who has been in a bitter battle with a South Carolina adoptive couple over his biological daughter is now wanted by authorities for custodial interference.

The Charleston (S.C.) County Sheriff's Office said officials in Iowa where Dusten Brown is on military duty are aware of the warrant and Brown is expected to turn himself into military authorities on Sunday.

Dusten Brown lost a bid for his 3-year-old daughter last week in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He failed to transfer custody of the child this week as ordered by a South Carolina court.

Veronica's adoptive parents -- Matt and Melanie Capobianco, of South Carolina -- raised Veronica for two years before Dusten Brown gained custody. Their adoption of Veronica has been finalized in South Carolina and they were to meet with Veronica and Dusten Brown on Sunday. A judge said Dusten Brown skipped the mandatory meeting, and did not send a proxy in his place, so he was ordered to immediately hand the girl over to the Capobiancos.

08/06/13 Related Story: South Carolina Judge Orders Immediate Transfer Of Baby Veronica

Dusten Brown is in Iowa, finishing up a three-week training stint with the Oklahoma National Guard. The plan was one where the Browns and Capobiancos were to work together to ease the change of custody on the child, meeting over several days so Veronica could see their cooperation.

According to the transition plan, Dusten Brown was to use a proxy to manage during the days of transition if he was not able to come.

"This would be someone whom Veronica knows and who Dusten is comfortable having in his home. This could be a friend, relative or community member Veronica is familiar with," the transition plan states.

Veronica is still in Oklahoma and is staying with the Brown family.

"She's unlawfully being kept from us," Melanie Capobianco said earlier this week. "What would any parent do in that situation?"

Read the full transition plan

The U.S. Army has said it will not interfere in the case on Dusten Brown's behalf because it involves custody matters.

In a Facebook post Saturday morning, Robin Brown said her husband is expected to be arrested and a warrant has been issued. A spokesperson for the Cherokee Nation confirmed Robin Brown posted the comments, but at the moment, the tribe could not reveal further details.

"Since it is a felony there is nothing that the Army can do to stop [an arrest]," Robin Brown wrote. "Iowa is going to enforce it so they will arrest him."

The Capobiancos had been trying to adopt 3-year-old Veronica since her birth. They raised the girl for the first two years of her life, but Veronica moved to Oklahoma in 2011 after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, favored her being raised by Dusten Brown, who is a member the Cherokee Nation.

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 high court said it could not allow a biological American Indian 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."

After Veronica's adoption by the Capobiancos was ruled final and a seven-day transition plan put in place, Dusten Brown issued a statement saying he would not "voluntarily" allow his child to be put through what said would be feelings of grief, loss and fear by moving to South Carolina.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a brief order Aug. 2, turning away a final request from Dusten Brown and upholding the adoption and transition plan as final.

When Dusten Brown missed the Sunday meeting, a South Carolina judge demanded immediate transfer.

Indian Child Welfare Act Overview

The child's birth mother -- Christy Maldonado, of Bartlesville -- last month sued U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking a declaration that parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act are unconstitutional. Maldonado said the law considers race in determining with whom a child should live and therefore violates equal protection provisions.

The Supreme Court ruling from June noted that the ICWA was designed to counteract the unwarranted removal of American Indian children 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 in this case.

Maldonado has said she supports Veronica's adoption by the Capobiancos.

The high court has said Dusten Brown didn't provide financial support for Maldonado during or after pregnancy and that he relinquished his parental rights to Veronica. Brown claims he thought he was giving full custody to Maldonado, not giving up his parental rights.

08/08/2013 Related Story: South Carolina Couple Responds To Battle Over Custody Of Baby Veronica

The Capobiancos have said they won't close the door on Veronica's relationship with her relatives in Oklahoma.

"I'm open to that until the very end," Melanie Capobianco said. "We hope, in the future, that there can be contact and all the people who love her can be a part of her life."

Lori McGill, the attorney for Veronica's birth mother, told Charleston CBS affiliate WCSC on Saturday that Veronica is now the victim of a felony kidnapping.

"The Browns have held her unlawfully for almost a week," McGill said in an email. "I assume law enforcement will take appropriate measures to quickly return her to her parents in South Carolina."

Amanda Clinton, a spokesperson for the Cherokee Nation, said the impending arrest of Dusten Brown is outrageous.

"It is morally reprehensible, and legally questionable, that South Carolina would take these measures when all parties involved were well aware of Dusten Brown's legal obligation to complete National Guard duty," Clinton said in a statement. "The attorneys, the courts and the adoptive couple in this case were keenly aware of Dusten's commitment, but clearly chose to ignore it. This case is still not yet fully litigated. So to take these steps when there are pending legal actions in South Carolina, Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation courts is appalling. Not only is the adoptive couple asking this child be ripped from her father while he is serving our country, they are also endangering his military career in the process. This is outrageous conduct."