Judge Finalizes Baby Veronica Adoption In South Carolina
COLUMBIA, South Carolina - The attorney for a South Carolina couple says a judge has finalized their adoption case, which reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lawyer James Fletcher Thompson said Wednesday that the adoption was now complete and a plan was in place to transfer the child from the custody of her father. He did not share details, and the hearing was closed to the public.
Matt and Melanie Capobianco have been trying to adopt 3-year-old Veronica since her birth. They raised the girl for two years, but Veronica moved to Oklahoma in 2011 after a South Carolina court ruled that federal law favored her being raised by her father, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Before the hearing, Dusten Brown asked the couple to stop trying to adopt his daughter and said he would not "voluntarily" allow his child to be put through what said would be feelings of grief, loss and fear.
In a letter on Wednesday, Brown wrote:
"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." They say she will likely become quiet and withdrawn and may cry herself to sleep. That the transfer will cause her to suffer "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 will bring justice to Veronica.
"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."
An attorney for the birth mother released this statement on Wednesday:
"As you know, NCAI and other organizations filed a complaint request for restraining order earlier today, against the family court judge, in an effort to stop today's proceedings. That lawsuit is seriously misguided. Federal district courts in this country do not sit in review of the judgments of state supreme courts. That role belongs to the United States Supreme Court, which has already once reviewed this case. This case can't be relitigated in a different forum just because some parties refuse to accept the result. But the idea that Veronica's rights have been somehow violated by being reunited with her family—or that there still hasn't been enough "process" in the courts in this case— is also baseless.
"Matt and Melanie Capobianco are Veronica's parents, no less than any other parents—and no one can seriously doubt that Veronica will be happy and thrive in the care of her parents, as she did for the first 2 ½ years of her life, before she was taken from them because of a terrible mistake of law -- with no regard for her interests, no transition period. That is the sad irony of this case. If only Brown and his tribe had considered Veronica and her interests 18 months ago, they might not have taken her from her family at the tender age of 2 ½ and then rejected her parents' desperate pleas to maintain any contact with their daughter. Melanie's letters to the Brown family begging them to keep their promise to allow simple phone calls would break the hardest of hearts. This time, there is a transition plan in place that puts Veronica's interests above those of all of the adults in her life."
But the fight may not be over. Several American Indian groups filed federal lawsuits.
Chrissi Ross Nimmo, Assistant Attorney General of the Cherokee nation, released the following statement on behalf of the tribe:
"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. 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."
Brown is at National Guard training right now.
He has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the handover of his daughter.
He says the state supreme court justices misread the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and did not take into account Veronica's interests.
The Native American Rights Fund has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Veronica's behalf.
The lawsuit asks a federal court in South Carolina to decide whether Veronica has a constitutional right to have a hearing about her best interests.
Tonight at 9 and 10 p.m., Lacie Lowry sits down with a social worker who specializes in child exchanges and transition plans.