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Baby Veronica's biological family: Court fight will move to Oklahoma



Rejecting a South Carolina court's demand that Baby Veronica be handed over immediately, her biological family will ask Oklahoma and Cherokee courts to intervene, family members said Tuesday.

"The battle in South Carolina is over," said Robin Brown, the 3-year-old girl's stepmother. "But the battle has just begun here in Oklahoma."

A Cherokee court gave Dusten Brown's wife and his parents temporary guardianship while he remains out of state for National Guard training. And that, along with Veronica and her father's membership in the Cherokee Nation, should give the tribal court jurisdiction over the wider custody dispute, Robin said.

She has also filed a separate adoption case in Nowata County, setting up a potential three-way jurisdiction battle between South Carolina, Oklahoma and Cherokee courts.

The biological father won't comply with a South Carolina judge's order to bring Veronica to Charleston, Robin said. And he has 20 days to contest that order in Oklahoma courts, she said.

A South Carolina judge on Monday ordered the immediate transfer of Baby Veronica back to her adoptive parents and asked federal authorities to help enforce it.

But the Cherokee Nation says it is "physically and legally impossible" for the biological father to comply with the order while he remains out of state for mandatory National Guard training.

Dusten Brown didn't bring his nearly 4-year-old daughter to South Carolina for a court-ordered meeting Sunday, prompting Family Court Judge Daniel Martin to ask the U.S. Attorney's office to help locate Veronica. He also called on Brown's military commanders to help.

This afternoon, the Oklahoma National Guard indicated it would not intervene in the matter. Brown will be required to complete his training in Iowa, which ends Aug. 21.

"While we respect the request by Judge Martin to help enforce his order yesterday, we believe it inappropriate for the Oklahoma National Guard to take action in this case until such time as it has been fully litigated by all parties," according to a statement by the guard.

On Monday, Martin overruled a plan last week to transition the 3-year-old gradually back to the custody of her adoptive parents, who had offered to spend several days in Oklahoma.

Brown had said that he wouldn't "voluntarily" comply with that plan. The judge Monday accused Brown of illegally keeping Veronica away from her legal parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

"It is disgusting to insinuate criminal misconduct or wrongdoing," Chrissi Nimmo, the assistant attorney general of the Cherokee Nation, said in a statement. "This is another ploy to paint Dusten as the ‘bad guy.' It is especially appalling while he is serving his country.”

A tribal court has given Brown's wife and parents temporary guardianship of Veronica while Brown remains out of state.

Dusten Brown and his family have received threats that make them afraid to take Veronica out in public, Robin said.

"He will do everything possible to keep her and protect her," she said. "If they take her, the little girl she is now would never be the same. It would destroy her."

Officials would have to "literally pry her away," Robin said. But if a hand-over becomes unavoidable, the family won't let it become a violent or dangerous situation, she said.

"Protecting Veronica is always our No. 1 priority," she said.

Four months after the girl was born, Dusten Brown agreed to give custody to the birth mother. But he said he didn't realize that she had already given Veronica up for adoption.

The Capobiancos raised Veronica from birth but lost custody when she was 2 years old.

With help from the Cherokee Nation, Brown won custody in December 2011, until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June sent the case back to South Carolina.

2013 Aug 6