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Veteran Kick Off Boardwalk for Service Dog; Judge Orders Name Change; New Calls for Filner to Step Down; Custody Battle Over Baby Veronica.

Aired August 12, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A disabled man, a man wounded for defending this country for 19 years was kicked off the boardwalk in New Jersey. And the reason is astounding. They said no dogs, even service dogs. Story coming up next.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to "The Legal View." I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's nice to have you with us on this very first edition of this program.

A military veteran had to make a pretty quick exit from the boardwalk in North Wildwood, New Jersey, not by choice, but because of this -- his dog. He was kicked out for having a dog with him, even though that dog was a service dog.

Diana Rocco with affiliate, KYW, has his story.


DIANA ROCCO, REPORTER, KYW (voice-over): A wounded veteran kicked off the boards and issued a summons, all over his service dog named Navigator.

JARED GOERING, DISABLED VETERAN: They said my dog wasn't a seeing-eye dog and that only seeing-eye dogs are allowed on the boardwalk.

ROCCO: Jared Goering and his wife were visiting from Tampa and they were stopped by police on North Wildwood Boardwalk. Both tried explaining that the dog called Gator, for short, is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows Gator to go everywhere Jared goes.

GOERING: The officer talking to me didn't want to hear any of it. He just wanted us off the boardwalk.

SALLY GOERING, VETERAN'S WIFE: Then he went on to say, what do they do, give every vet a dog now? He has a vest on. He does an I.D., which he gave to the officer and the officer gave it back to him, saying it doesn't mean anything to me.

ROCCO: Jared retired from military service after 19 years due to injuries during multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has traumatic brain injury from two IEDs and problems with mobility. 3-year-old Gator helps him walk and go up and down stair.

GOERING: I respect cops and I respect what they do. They don't have an easy job. My job for 20 years was to defend the country. I got shot at on a daily basis, have been blown up, you know. Yeah, it hurts.


BANFIELD: Yeah, it hurts the rest of us to hear that story as well.

Thanks to Diana Rocco with KYW for that report.

Police tell us Jared Goering contacted the shift supervisor, the sergeant right after that happened and the sergeant did file to dismiss the summons. And they've launched an internal investigation into all of this and that they've distributed information about service dogs to all of their officers. Probably a very good idea in light of what happened.

So, let me ask you this. When you hear the word "messiah," what do you think of? Well, one little boy might actually have thought it was his own name until a judge decided to change it to Martin. The reason behind the judge getting involved in all of this anyway and whether a judge can really do that -- make you change the name of your baby. It's coming up.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to "The Legal View."

Naming your baby is a massive decision most parents even stress about for months, especially when you tell your mother-in-law. But when this couple's baby was born in January, the parents of a little boy in Tennessee decided to name him Messiah. Now a judge has ruled they can't. In fact, the judge said, you have to change that to Martin.

Here is what the judge said, "The word messiah is a title and it's a title that's only been earned by one person and that person is Jesus Christ."

Here is the rub, though. This baby is far from the first to be named Messiah. In fact, Messiah is one of the fastest growing boys' names last year. There is the list. See, Messiah second from the end? Yeah, it's popular.

Joining me now, CNN legal correspondent, Jean Casarez, and Tom Mesereau.

You're smiling already, Tom, on this one. I'm going to throw this to you, Tom. I thought there was something called church and state, little First Amendment thing that we have that people can't butt into your religion and change a baby's name because of it.

TOM MESEREAU, ATTORNEY: With all due respect, the judge's religious beliefs, which I'm sure are very sincere, she has crossed the line. She doesn't have the authority to do this. This will be reversed. I live in California with a large Latino population. How many young men are named Jesus? How many men are named angel?

BANFIELD: A lot. A lot.

MESEREAU: I met a young man named Mohammed, a young man named Buddha, who is an athlete. This is getting ridiculous. She doesn't have the power to do this and she will be reversed.

BANFIELD: I'm glad you mentioned those names. I have a handy dandy graphic to show how popular those names are. Let me start with Jesus. It's ranked 101. Mohammed ranks 439, but because you can spell it so many other ways, four different spellings of it are also in the top 600 and Jesus, as we mentioned, is ranked 101. And I would think that Jesus would qualify for her argument.

Jean Casarez, Tom Mesereau just said it. He said this would be reversed.


BANFIELD: More importantly, where do judges come down to what she said was protecting the best interest of this child.

CASAREZ: That's it. That's how she got around it, the best interest.

BANFIELD: She said the kid is going to get teased in a Christian where does her balance go off?

She ruled it's in the best interest of her child, in her opinion, to have the name Martin and not messiah. Is it her decision at all? This is a parental decision. By the way, the parents came in to change the last name. They didn't know what the last name should be. The judge decided it will be the mother's and the father's last name hyphenated.


BANFIELD: They were arguing what last name the baby should have?

CASAREZ: And she changed the first name.

BANFIELD: Did a holy -- holy you know what.


CASAREZ: Exactly. Judge has the jurisdiction to make jurisdictions in the best interest of the child. That's how she's getting around the church versus state argument, I think.

BANFIELD: Pretty astounding. Like Tom said, it's going to be reversed on appeal. We'll continue to watch this.

Thank you, Tom.

Thank you, Jean.

MESEREAU: Thank you. BANFIELD: Another great story we've been watching, San Diego's mayor, the gift that keeps giving, especially to journalists. He is out of rehab a week earlier than expected. We have the latest on the allegations against this man and the calls for him to resign.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to "Legal View." I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

When San Diego's mayor, Bob Filner said "I'll go to therapy," in response to sexual harassment allegations, I think it's fair to say that a lot of people thought it wasn't enough and, apparently, it wasn't a lot. He left therapy one week early. His lawyer says he actually started a week early and finished the entire two weeks. This is leading to even more calls for him to step aside.

Kyung Lah has the story.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After checking out of rehab a week before he said he would publicly finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are kind of shaking their heads and saying, you know, it's ridiculous. Why is it continuing?

LAH: Filner's residents overwhelmingly want him to stay away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, mayor? You did what you did and now you want to stay as mayor? Bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you're not staying as mayor.

LAH: Voters aren't the only ones. U.S. Senator and fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer wrote an open letter saying, "You must resign." She adds, "Women recovering from sexual assault has shaken me to my core."


LAH: The Senator is talking about CNN's exclusive interview with these two women, both former military and rape survivors, who say they were then harassed by Bob Filner at a support meeting.

Filner, the former chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, was invited into their women's veteran's group, seen as a champion of their cause.

ELDONNA LEWIS FERNANDEZ, RETIRED MASTER SERGEANT, U.S. AIR FORCE: We're all victims of military sexual assault and it appears to me that he was targeting this organization and hitting on the women in this organization because they were easy prey.

LAH: The city attorney's office, the sheriff's department and the California attorney general's office all working on investigating the mayor.

Filner's chief of staff reportedly changed the locks on the mayor's office to preserve what he calls potential evidence.

The mayor remains on personal leave under the growing chorus for him to resign.

Kyung Lah, CNN, San Diego.


BANFIELD: Stay tuned for more on that one.

We have a child custody case that went all the way to the Supreme Court this year. Guess what, they resolved it, but it's still not resolved. Now there's a warrant out for the arrest of the biological father in this case. We have the latest on the saga of Baby Veronica after this quick break.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to THE LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield in New York.

I want to take you to family court where the legal and emotional battle of over little girl caught between two families who both want her desperately has taken a very sharp turn. There was an arrest warrant that was sent out for Baby Veronica's biologist father, whose name is Dustin Brown. The reason is he failed to turn over that toddler to her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. The fight went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and had to do with the right of Native American Indian children.

Today the couple went before the cameras to demand of the return of their daughter, who they had raised since she was an infant. They say that Baby Veronica had been kidnapped.


MELANIE CAPOBIANCO, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: We come before you all today as parents to simply ask those who stand with the authority to enforce the laws. Why are you standing by and watching our daughter Veronica be held against our will.

MATT CAPOBIANCO, ADOPTIVE FATHER: If this doesn't happen, I will be boarding a flight to Oklahoma today and I'm coming to get my daughter. I expect her bags to be packed and she will be ready and waiting to come home. I expect Oklahoma law enforcement to escort me to the premises where my daughter is said to be held and, if necessary, arrest anyone who attempts to hold her captive.


BANFIELD: There's just so much sadness all around in the story.

Randi Kaye has been following this from the beginning. She's interviewed just about everybody party involved.

Before you give us this breaking news, I want to make sure people understand clearly. That little girl was raised by Capobiancos from baby.


BANFIELD: The custody was turned over to the biological father. The Supreme Court ruled it's got to go back to the Capobiancos. But that child has been wrenched between families.

KAYE: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: And it's about to happen again. What's the breaking news?

KAYE: The breaking news is I just spoke to the Cherokee Nation. The fact he is part Cherokee and making her part Cherokee and it goes back to this old federal law in 1978 that say Indian children have to stay with Indian homes. That's why this whole case has gotten such attention from the U.S. Supreme Court. But the breaking news is that Dustin Brown, the biological father, is now in custody in Oklahoma because. I'm not sure where exactly but he did turn himself in a few moments ago.

BANFIELD: What about Veronica? That's the big question.

KAYE: Veronica -- that is the big question. That's what a lot of people are worried about.

BANFIELD: Where's the baby?

BANFIELD: Veronica is now four years old and has been staying with her biological grandparents, Dustin Brown's parents, because he's been on National Guard duty. He says that's why he didn't hand over the child or show up for this transitional meeting where he was supposed to have Veronica get to know the Capobiancos again. That's why the Supreme Court says you have to turn her over immediately, the South Carolina Supreme Court.

BANFIELD: There was supposed to be transitional meeting because that baby that came to the Capobiancos and now knows her biological as this parent, this child needs transition.

KAYE: She does. The fact is she lived with the Capobiancos until she was two and a half. She's been with her biological father, 1500 miles away, for 19 months. When I spoke to him he says they've bonded. We have these beautiful pictures that show they bonded together. He said she has a new puppy. She rides a bike now. She comes screaming and grabbing on his pants leg. Daddy, Daddy, when she comes home. I asked him, does she even know what she's been through? Does she know she's been split? Listen to what he told me.


BANFIELD: Do you think she understands what's been happening and living with somebody else and now she lives with you?

DUSTIN BROWN, BIOLOGICAL FATHER OF VERONICA: She doesn't quite understand it. She's seen pictures of them with her. She goes I know that's me but who are they? I just tell her those are some people that love you too.


KAYE: She just said he doesn't want to get into bad mouthing them and he tries to explain to her this is how he went down. Those are people who love you too.

BANFIELD: Now it looks as though with this arrest, it looks pretty hopeless for a seamless transition between these two parties. It looks like this baby will be thrust into a home she should know because she grew up there but has no memory of.

KAYE: I was there earlier last week. I meet with the Capobiancos in South Carolina where Baby Veronica is supposed to be living. They still have her favorite chair and the big girl bed for her. They are ready. She should have been sleeping there.

It's been very, very difficult for her. But he said he didn't want to send his new wife or his grandparents as a proxy to this meeting. He was on National Guard Duty. He said she's not a puppy. She's not a piece of furniture. I'm her father. I'm not going to send her there with somebody else. He said -- he told me, I am willing to go to jail. I asked, at what point are you ready, will you ever will ready to hand her over? Listen to this reaction.


KAYE: Will you be ready at some point to hand your daughter over or what will it take?

BROWN: That's a question that's hard for any parent to answer. I'm going to fight till I have no fight left in me and they say you can't fight no more. This is my daughter. This is not a yo-yo that I can say I borrowed it for two years and here is it back. This is a life that is happy where she's at and to take her from us is going to be very detrimental to her. It's like ripping her heart out. She's a happy child with us.


KAYE: Very difficult for both sides. All we really care about is the best interest of Veronica.

BANFIELD: There will be pain and suffering with both sets of parents, and there will pain for that child. It's heartbreaking.

KAYE: It is.

BANFIELD: Great reporting on this. I've been watch this.

KAYE: Thank you. Congratulations on the new show. That was really the breaking news.

BANFIELD: Thank you.

Make sure you watch Randi Kaye's reporting every night on "A.C. 360." It's where all this news has been breaking.

Thank you for watching our first edition of "The Legal View." It's been nice to have you with us. AROUND THE WORLD is next. Michael Holmes and Brooke Baldwin sitting in. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Have a great day.