The biological father of a 4-year-old Cherokee girl who’s been at the center of a bitter custody battle almost since her birth said Thursday that he would put an end to the fighting.
Dusten Brown, Veronica Capobianco’s birth father, and Chrissi Nimmo, the attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, held a press conference announcing they would be dropping all pending litigation in the custody dispute that’s come to be known as the “Baby Veronica” case.
Veronica’s “entire childhood has been lived in front of media -- in the spotlight,” Brown said, weeping. “It was time to let her live a normal childhood.”
In June, a divided U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who are white, when Brown sought to assert his parental rights. The Capobiancos legally began adoption proceedings before Veronica was born.
The justices said the adoption was proper and did not intrude on the federal rights of the father, a registered member of the Cherokee tribe, over where his daughter would live.
The court said Brown could not rely on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) for relief because he never had legal or physical custody at the time of adoption proceedings, which were initiated by the non-Native American birth mother without his knowledge. Christine Maldonado, Veronica’s biological mother, says Brown agreed to terminate his parental rights before the child’s birth.
ICWA initially had allowed Brown to object to the girl's adoption by the Capobiancos. The Capobiancos were ordered to turn Veronica over to Brown in 2011 -- when the girl was about 2 years old -- and she lived with him until September 23, when Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ordered him to give her back.
“Veronica is a special child,” said Nimmo. “The best thing for Veronica is for the litigation to end and healing to begin.” Appearing to address the Capobiancos and their attorneys, she added, “We ask you to show some mercy. We ask you to do the right thing and get rid of the continued litigation in this case.”
Through tears, Brown said the past several weeks without his daughter have been extremely painful, but said he feels “we did everything we could to keep her home.” He said the most difficult decision he had to make was letting Veronica go, but he believed it was “no longer fair to keep her in the middle.”
Brown also said he believes the Capobiancos “love Veronica very much and will provide her with a good home.” He now hopes they can all work together and that he will be allowed to see Veronica on a regular basis.
“Never, ever doubt how hard I fought for you -- how much you mean to me. My home will always be your home -- you’re always welcome in it,” he said, addressing Veronica. “I love you and hope to see you soon.”
See how it all began: Supreme Court rules on little girl’s fate
Nimmo said that the Cherokee Nation would honor its commitment to help keep Veronica connected to “her proud and rich Cherokee culture.”
“To Veronica, you’ll have questions one day. We hope you never question that your father loves you,” Nimmo said. “We hope you have a happy, healthy life.”