By Thad Ayers
Phoenix Staff Writer
A Muskogee County judge said Wednesday a 3-year-old Cherokee girl should be brought before a court in a two-state custody battle.
District Judge Thomas Alford said he ordered a writ of habeas corpus on the case involving a Cherokee child named Veronica.
“The writ essentially orders the child to the adoptive parents subject to what the (Oklahoma Supreme Court) does,” Alford said.
Not long after the case appeared in Muskogee County District Court, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed an extradition order that would send Veronica’s biological father Dusten Brown to South Carolina on custodial interference charges filed last month.
“Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith,” Fallin said in a media release. “He has disobeyed an Oklahoma court order to allow the Capobianco’s to visit their adopted daughter and continues to deny visitation. He is acting in open violation of both Oklahoma and South Carolina Courts, which have granted custody of Veronica to the Capobianco’s.”
Oklahoma’s Supreme Court granted an emergency stay Friday that kept Veronica with her father.
The two parties have been going through mediation behind closed doors in a Cherokee County Court, but the judge in that case recused herself from the case last week. Wednesday that mediation continued at the Muskogee County Courthouse.
Alford said any arguments regarding the validity of the adoption of the child in South Carolina should be “tried in that court, not here.”
Attorneys, families and spokespeople in the case have been ordered to avoid publicly discussing the ongoing case. That continued Wednesday when the Browns and Capobiancos, Veronica’s adoptive parents, left Alford’s courthouse.
Veronica is with Brown and his wife Robin. Brown is from Oklahoma and is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
He and his family argue the child should be raised in the Cherokee Nation, according to the Indian Child Welfare Act, which prevents Native American children from being adopted by non-Native American families.
Brown has had his daughter, known as “Baby Veronica,” since 2011. But a South Carolina couple — Matt and Melanie Capobianco — have tried to adopt the child and say they area the rightful parents because of a South Carolina court order. The Capobianco’s began the adoption process with Veronica’s birth mother in 2009.
Brown’s attorneys have said Oklahoma or Cherokee Nation courts should have jurisdiction in the case, not South Carolina, because Veronica has been with the Browns’ for about two years.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the summer the Indian Child Welfare act did not apply in Brown’s case because Brown had been absent from the child’s life. A Cherokee Nation court gave Brown’s grandparents custody of Veronica while he was out of state on National Guard training.
The grandparents live in Tahlequah.
Both parties are awaiting a ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court after arguments were heard in court Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reach Thad Ayers at (918) 684-2903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.