DES MOINES, Iowa — The father of a Cherokee Indian girl mired in an adoption dispute was allowed to leave an Iowa National Guard base and return to Oklahoma, an Iowa Guard spokesman said Sunday.
Oklahoma National Guard spokesman Col. Max Moss said Dusten Brown was cleared Saturday night to return to the Oklahoma National Guard.
Brown, who is Cherokee, is charged with custodial interference involving his 3-year-old daughter, Veronica. A South Carolina couple has been trying to adopt Veronica since her birth in 2009; they raised her for two years.
The issue has been clouded by the Indian Child Welfare Act, which prompted a court in 2011 to favor the girl living with her father. But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina courts should decide who gets to adopt Veronica.
The girl’s biological mother, Chrissy Maldonado, is not Indian and supports the adoption. She has filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional.
More recently, a South Carolina judge finalized the couple’s adoption and approved a plan to reintroduce Veronica to the couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. Brown didn’t show up for the first scheduled gathering Aug. 4, prompting the charge.
Brown was attending a military training school at Camp Dodge, a National Guard base in the Des Moines suburb of Johnston. Iowa National Guard spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood said Brown had been living in barracks at the camp, as is typical for people receiving training.
Brown and others had been given a two-day pass to leave the camp Friday and Saturday. He was supposed to report back Sunday, but that changed when the Oklahoma National Guard freed him from his training orders Saturday night and required he return to Oklahoma, officials said.
Several American Indian groups are also pursuing a federal civil rights case, saying a hearing should be held to determine if it is in Veronica’s best interest to be transferred to South Carolina.
Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton has called the move to charge Brown “morally reprehensible” and “legally questionable.”
Clinton noted in a written statement that the case hasn’t been fully litigated and condemned the charge when there is legal action pending in South Carolina, Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation courts.
The attorneys for Veronica’s adoptive parents and her birth mother argued in a joint statement Sunday morning that not only is Brown committing a felony, but anyone who hides the child from law enforcement or stands in the way of the court order to turn her over – including the Cherokee Nation – also should be considered lawbreakers.
“It seems the lesson here is that Matt and Melanie Capobianco should have refused to turn Veronica over 19 months ago, and denounced it as outrageous that they were being forced to comply with a court order when they still had the entire appeals process before them. They did not do that, because they understood that they would be fugitives from justice if they resorted to ignoring the rule of law,” the statement said.
The statement said the charge filed against Brown isn’t surprising: “It is absolutely necessary to ensure that the rule of law is followed and a little girl is returned to her parents.”