Sobbing Brown: 'You will always be my little girl'
TULSA, Okla. (WCIV/AP) - In a tearful press conference Thursday morning, Dusten Brown and officials from the Cherokee Nation said they were dropping all legal efforts to regain custody of Veronica.
For four years, Brown and Matt and Melanie Capobianco have been locked in a custody battle over Brown's biological daughter, Veronica. Last month, Oklahoma's Supreme Court lifted a stay that was preventing the girl's transfer to the Capobiancos.
Brown said the decision to drop the custody fight was the hardest thing he's ever had to do, but knew it was the right decision to give Veronica a chance at a normal life.
"Never ever doubt for one second how much I love you or how much I fought for you," he said through sobs. "My home will always be your home."
While the legal fight is over, Brown said it was his hope that the two sides could work together so that the Browns could still remain a part of Veronica's life.
"During this four-year fight to raise my daughter, I had to make many difficult decisions — decisions no father should ever have to make," Brown said. "The most difficult decision of all was to let Veronica go with Matt and Melanie Capobianco last month. But it was no longer fair to Veronica to have her in the middle of this battle. It was the love for my daughter that kept me going all of this time. But it was also the love for my daughter that finally gave me the strength to accept things that are beyond my control."
Chrissi Nimmo, the Cherokee Nation's assistant attorney general, said that the link between Veronica and her father be allowed to persist; she asked the Capobiancos to nurture that bond.
So far, that link has remained intact, according to Nimmo. She said Thursday morning that Brown had been in contact with Veronica since the handover, but did not give details on the arrangements between the two families.
Nimmo also asked that the Capobiancos do everything they can to have the criminal and contempt charges against Brown dropped.
"We ask that you show some mercy," she said. "Dusten is here today letting go of the past and asking to move forward. He cannot do that and you cannot do that with continued litigation."
Christinna Maldonado, Veronica's birth mother who has lobbied since before the 4-year-old's birth for the Capobiancos to adopt her said she was hopeful for the future after Brown's statement.
"I am encouraged by this morning's statements and I'm relieved that Dusten is finally accepting that Matt and Melanie are Veronica's parents," she said. "But I still wish that he would take some responsibility for his actions, because I think it would help all of us begin to heal and move forward together in a way that is best for Veronica. Some of Dusten's most vocal supporters are still engaged in threatening and destructive behavior, and he and the Cherokee Nation should use their influence to make it stop, for Veronica's sake."
Since regaining custody of Veronica, the Capobiancos have lain low, only releasing one photo the day after the handover of the three of them together, smiling outside what appeared to be a truck stop.
The Capobiancos this week returned to their James Island home and told a newspaper reported on Wednesday that they wanted privacy. A spokeswoman confirmed that statement Thursday afternoon.
Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, argued that federal law favors his keeping custody of the child, but the U.S. Supreme Court said this summer that the Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply to the case.
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