An effort in Charleston to impose financial sanctions on the birth father of 4-year-old Veronica was dropped at the request of the girl’s adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, attorneys said Friday.
A two-day hearing on the contempt-of-court issue had been set to start Jan. 27 in front of Charleston County Family Court Judge Daniel Martin.
But the James Island couple who won a long-fought battle to adopt Veronica instead asked Martin to cancel the proceeding and dismiss the contempt case “with prejudice,” meaning it can never again be revived, according James Fletcher Thompson, a Spartanburg-based attorney for the Capobiancos.
Attorneys on both sides of the custody dispute explained the development Friday, a day after the Tulsa World newspaper in Oklahoma first reported it.
A judgment against Brown and the American Indian tribe he belongs to could have resulted in a monetary award to the Capobiancos and their attorneys, who sought to be reimbursed for their expenses during the seven-week period in which Brown refused to abide by the South Carolina adoption decree.
Shannon Jones, Brown’s attorney in Charleston, said Friday that the action was on shaky legal ground in the first place.
“I am glad they thought better of it and agreed to the dismissal,” she said.
A warrant for Brown’s arrest on a charge of custodial interference persists here, though government officials have dropped their quest to have him extradited to South Carolina.
An effort also remains in play in Oklahoma, where the couple’s attorneys are seeking about $1 million in legal fees. That’s where most of the battle played out after the adoption was finalized.
Jones called the Sooner State action “even more absurd and frivolous” and called on the Capobiancos to ask for its dismissal.
“They won the privilege of raising Veronica,” Jones said. “That should be more than enough for them and their attorneys.”
Martin had asked the couple’s attorneys to draft a contempt motion in South Carolina after Brown refused to hand over Veronica according to the judge’s July adoption order. The attorneys contended that Brown could have avoided the contempt action if he had given up his daughter when he was first ordered to.
The adoption was finalized after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that courts had wrongly given Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, custody of Veronica under the Indian Child Welfare Act because he had never been involved with her or her mother during pregnancy. The Capobiancos had cared for Veronica from birth until she was 2.
South Carolina’s high court later interpreted the ruling in Washington as a mandate to again cause a change of custody without holding a hearing to determine whether the switch was in Veronica’s best interests. It ordered the Family Court judge to push through the adoption without further delay.
Brown appealed the order here and fought it from being enforced in Oklahoma. After weeks of court hearings and mediation sessions, those efforts failed. Oklahoma’s courts approved the decree.
Brown reluctantly handed over the girl in late September without a guarantee that he would ever see her again.
Aside from a brief interview on the syndicated talk show “Dr. Phil,” whose host long supported their cause, the couple have not discussed the case publicly since Veronica’s return to the Lowcountry.
They declined recent interviews requests from The Post and Courier.
Even after Veronica was returned to James Island and Brown dropped his appeals, the case continued to stir emotions and rumors in Internet forums.
The Capobiancos’ detractors claimed that the couple adopted another child in November. For evidence, the critics pointed in late December to gift registries on Target.com and TheBump.com with the couple’s names attached.
Jessica Munday, a family friend who has acted as the Capobiancos’ spokeswoman, said Friday that such rumors were false and that Veronica was the couple’s only adopted child.
The registries were recently removed. A Facebook page titled “Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown” that once rallied Brown’s supporters and linked to the registries also was no longer publicly accessible.
Despite the persistent scrutiny, Munday said Friday, the reunited family is “doing so well.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
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