'Baby Veronica' Hearings Take Place In Oklahoma; Mediation Agreement Filed
TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma - Both parties fighting for custody of the 3-year-old girl known as 'Baby Veronica' went to hearings in two different court venues on Friday. Biological father Dusten Brown, of Oklahoma, and adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco, of South Carolina, attended court cases in Cherokee County District Court and tribal court.
The three-hour district court hearing was for a motion for a writ of habeas corpus filed Thursday afternoon by the Capobiancos.
The order of habeas corpus names Brown, as well as his wife, Robin, and his parents, and it ordered them to appear before the district court judge.
The Capobiancos said in a statement they took the step after learning of a tribal court hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. to determine guardianship of the child. They and the child's birth mother were "intentionally excluded from the hearing," the statement says.
Both the Capobiancos and Brown and his wife arrived at the district courthouse in Tahlequah before 9 a.m. Friday. Veronica was not with them.
It was the first time the two couples have been in the same room in months.
The district court hearing ended shortly after noon, but there is no information on the results because media was ordered out of the courtroom. The Cherokee County Court Clerk told News On 6 that the judge issued a gag order preventing the parties from talking.
According to court records, a mediation agreement was filed after the proceeding; however, records and details are under seal.
The tribal custody hearing that took place later in the day was originally scheduled for Monday at the request of an attorney representing the child's best interests. It was postponed when the child's biological father turned himself in to Sequoyah County authorities for custodial interference, according to Jason McCarty of the Cherokee Nation.
The results of the tribal hearing are also unknown. Media was not allowed and McCarty said the records were ordered sealed because it involves a minor.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Veronica's adoption by the Capobiancos. The adoption was finalized by the South Carolina courts July 31, and Brown has not transferred custody of Veronica to the couple as ordered in that state. Brown's camp said Veronica is being cared for by her paternal grandparents at an undisclosed location, which they have not revealed to the Capobiancos.
Matt and Melanie Capobianco say the traveled to Oklahoma from South Carolina specifically to see their adoptive daughter. They said they have yet to meet or talk to Veronica since coming to Oklahoma earlier this week.
"After 19 long months of trying this case in local family courts, state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown has determined yet again his intent to continue to drag this unfortunate situation out further," the Capobiancos said in the release.
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.
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 June, after the Capobiancos appealed, the U.S. Supreme Court said Brown was not entitled to custody of the child based on ICWA.
Brown is facing extradition to South Carolina after the governor requested his rendition. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said this week she would like to allow Brown his day in Oklahoma courts, but is prepared to speed up extradition if he doesn't comply with "reasonable requests" by the Capobiancos to visit their adoptive daughter.