David Goldman Is Reunited With Son Sean in Brazil

The five-year custody battle over a 9-year-old boy ends.

December 22, 2009, 6:04 PM

Dec. 24, 2009— -- Nine-year-old Sean Goldman and his father, David, landed in Orlando this evening after reuniting in Brazil earlier today, bringing a close to a five-year custody battle over the boy.

They greeted one another this morning at the U.S. consulate in Rio de Janeiro.

Sean walked into the consulate wearing a bright yellow Brazilian national soccer jersey among a throng of press who broke through barricades to get closer.

Sean's stepfather and the lawyer for Sean's Brazilian family, Sergio Tostes, had their arms around Sean and escorted him inside to his father who was waiting in a private room.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who traveled to Brazil to help Goldman, said Sean was not upset when he saw his father, and the two are getting along well.

"They were talking about basketball, which is what guys do, they talk about sports. And you know … they were talking about the snow, just everyday good old things," Smith told ABC News. He added that the two spoke in English.

In a letter from Goldman that Smith read to the media, the father thanked those who helped him reunite with his son.

"I am grateful for the so many truly amazing and wonderful people who have put forth an extraordinary and tremendous effort to reunite our family with our beautiful Sean. Please know that my love and the rest of Sean's family's love for him knows no boundaries and we will go to the ends of the Earth to protect him and shower him with every ounce of love that we have," Goldman wrote.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement saying she is "thrilled" the father and son finally reunited.

"I want to thank everyone who helped bring this long process to a successful conclusion, including a number of members of Congress and many concerned parties both here and in Brazil. We also appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the government of Brazil in upholding its obligations under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. I offer my warmest wishes for father and son as they celebrate their first holiday season together in five years," Clinton said.

Wednesday a Brazilian court ruled that Sean was to be turned over to his father by 9 a.m. (6 a.m. ET) Thursday.

The boy's Brazilian family decided to give up its fight for custody of Sean following Tuesday's court ruling that he must be returned to his father.

Sean's maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, told ABC News that her grandson does not want to leave Brazil.

"He said he is very sad because he does not want to, and he is very sad because he had, he has the right to speak and to explain himself, but the judge here cut his right," Bianchi said.

The grandmother said she continued to fight for custody of Sean because he wanted to stay with his family in Brazil.

"He wanted to stay with us. Now I want … him to be happy. … And if he goes to United States and stay … the best thing for him will be [to] stay there," Bianchi said.

Goldman told ABC News that he would still allow Sean's Brazilian family to visit him.

"I wouldn't keep the door locked. I wouldn't do that. There needs to be a lot of healing, and a lot of steps taken. Sean has to be in a good place with his emotional fragility after all these years of psychological abuse. That is my first priority," Goldman said.

Smith said Wednesday's ruling was welcome news. David Goldman has spent more than a week in Brazil in hope of bringing his son back to New Jersey.

"David and his team are encouraged that the nightmare is coming to an end," Smith told The Associated Press Wednesday. "No more delays. It's time to do this."

On Tuesday the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that the boy "be handed over to his father and should be returned to the United States."

Smith said Goldman was "elated" when he heard the court's decision.

"A big smile came to his face, but he said, 'I'm not going to let my guard down until it's wheels up," Smith told the AP Tuesday.

David Goldman, 42, was granted custody of the boy last week only to have a legal motion block his long-sought reunion with nine-year-old Sean.

David Goldman Vs. Grandmother

The boy went to Brazil with his mother when he was 4, but the mother never returned to the United States. She divorced Goldman and remarried, but died giving birth to a daughter she had with her second husband.

The mother's family assumed custody of Sean and has fought Goldman's claims for custody for the past five years.

Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling came as Bianchi wrote a passionate letter to the president of Brazil, pleading with him to intervene and prevent the boy from being taken away just before Christmas.

"Our moral foundation values the mother's role. In the absence of the mother, the raising should be done by the grandmothers. This is custom in Brazil from north to south," she wrote, calling the custom "authentically Brazilian."

Bianchi claimed in her letter that she has become the "target of an international campaign of unbelievable proportions. American authorities give public declarations saying I am a kidnapper," she wrote.

The grandmother said all the legal arguments did not take into consideration what the boy wants.

"Mr. President, this is not a cry of a grandmother in agony. This is the clamor of a Brazilian fighting with all of the strength that she has left so the justice of this country would apply the laws with humanity," she said.

Bianchi said sending Sean to New Jersey would tear him away from the family he has lived with for the past five years, and from his three-year-old sister, Chiara. "To do this, especially on Christmas Eve, is inhumane," she said.

Kate McCarthy, Mark Mooney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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