Video: Dad heads to Brazil for son after court ruling

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    >> on.

    >>> but we'll begin with what could be the beginning of the end of david goldman 's five-year battle to win back his son. nbc's jeff rossen spoke with him exclusively shortly before goldman headed to brazil . good morning to you.

    >> hi, meredith . good to see you this morning. finally, good news in this case. david goldman , as you mentioned, is on a plane right now headed to brazil to pick up his son sean and hopefully bring him home. the new brazil court ruling is pretty clear -- david and sean , father and son , should be reunited by friday. but in this case, as we've seen, anything can happen, and david goldman knows it. late yesterday he sat down with me for an exclusive interview. good to see you.

    >> you too.

    >> your heart must be beating right now.

    >> i'm focused.

    >> reporter: we met with david goldman wednesday, just after the judge's ruling, a unanimous decision by brazil 's federal appeals court , saying sean goldman belongs with his father, david , and they belong at home in the u.s.

    >> it's a great ruling. i mean, they upheld the return order unanimously. that 's wonderful . thank god.

    >> yippee!

    >> yippee.

    >> reporter: the judge has ordered sean be returned to david within 48 hours , setting the stage for an emotional reunion in brazil on friday. you just found out about this hours ago. how are you feeling right now? what's going through your heart and your mind?

    >> i'm so guarded and protected. i have to preserve myself and my emotions. until we are on a plane, and essentially, until the wheels have landed back home, i only have one vision, and that's just to save him and bring him back.

    >> reporter: do you think this is it this time, you're getting him?

    >> i hope so. he's my son. i'm his only dad. i'm hopeful that i will go down there and bring him home.

    >> reporter: but david goldman 's been burned so many times before -- last-minute appeals and legal loopholes always did him in. david 's wife took sean to brazil to visit her family in 2004 , yet they never came back. from brazil , she divorced david , remarried, got pregnant and died during childbirth. her new brazilian husband has been fighting to keep sean with him. and until now, the brazilian courts mostly ruled in his favor. so, it's understandable that david isn't jumping for joy yet.

    >> i've been fighting for my own son for over five years. so, again, i've been off that roller coaster . i got off it a while ago.

    >> reporter: the emotional roller coaster ?

    >> yeah. to stay on it would kill you.

    >> reporter: but david never gave up. his fight caught the attention of secretary of state hillary clinton .

    >> we will continue to support mr. goldman .

    >> reporter: even president obama got involved, discussing the case with brazil 's president. david says the brazilian government has ignored international law , saying kidnapped children must be returned home. in fact, just before our interview, there was another setback. the brazilian family has already filed appeals and a motion to stay, to try to block you from taking him back home.

    >> it's to be expected, and who knows what will happen. he's everything. he's my child, my flesh and blood . he was my best buddy, and it's not over yet. it's not over yet.

    >> he says sean has been hurt by his brazilian family. david calls them the kidnappers. the reunion could happen tomorrow. but as we mentioned, there's already a motion, meredith , to block the reunion. we're told the brazilian judges could hear that motion today.

    >> all right, jeff rossen , thanks very much. patricia appy is david goldman 's lawyer, with us exclusively this morning. good morning, patricia .

    >> good morning, meredith .

    >> i know you haven't slept very much last night. you said to me before we were moving to break, it's been quite an odyssey for you the past 48 hours . what do you mean?

    >> we were told that a decision was coming down. of course, when we received it, it's in portuguese. we're going to be getting information from our brazilian lawyer telling us what's in it, but it's basically a situation where i can't read the decision, our client is on an airplane on his way, not really knowing what the decision says, other than there's supposed to be a handoff of sean 48 hours from when the decision was rendered, which would put us somewhere in the middle of friday afternoon.

    >> but now you have more road blocks with this appeal and the motion to stay. and i understand also that sean 's maternal grandmother has filed for custody of him as well?

    >> well, there have been over 25 applications made since the original ruling, brazilian ruling, that sean should be returned. there are a couple of additional ones that we expected would be filed. this is very different, though. these appeals really don't address the merits, and the merits of this case have been set by the brazilian court. they've indicated that this child should be returned and should be returned immediately, and our position is that there is discretion for the court to deny the stays, that sean should be sent home immediately, and if they really want to comply with the treaty and be expeditious, now is the time to do it.

    >> and when will they hear these appeals?

    >> well, the supreme court is sitting, and we understand that this has been -- the stay application's been made to the supreme court . we're hopeful they will use this opportunity to comply with the treaty and immediately reject the stay and permit sean to travel. so, hopefully, as early as today.

    >> david 's own lawyer in brazil was quoted yesterday saying he doesn't expect a final resolution until at least the first half of next year. what's your position on that?

    >> well, he's got to be conservative in terms of what's going to happen. certainly, there are the opportunities for this to continue to be dragged through procedural morass. if the brazilian government and brazilian judiciary mean what they say, it shouldn't happen here.

    >> are you at all concerned that sean 's brazilian family may ignore any order and take off with the boy?

    >> yes.

    >> that is a concern?

    >> absolutely. they hold passports for countries other than brazil . happily, i think the community has been sensitized to the situation. so, we're hopeful that finally, finally, the rule of law will apply, the brazilian judiciary and the brazilian family will work with us in the restoration of sean to the united states and his father.

    >> yeah. in the meantime, david goldman has said on numerous occasions that he believes that that family has poisoned his relationship with sean over all these years.

    >> i think that they've attempted to do that. the best remedy for that is contact. and i believe that nothing will be more healing to sean than being able to spend time with david .

    >> and david also has not spoken with sean since june? why is that?

    >> the brazilian family has consistently from the inception of this case prevented any telephone or personal contact that wasn't court ordered. and even the court-ordered access, they've denied. so, frankly, they won't provide the contact. and of course, every contact that david does have with sean is coupled with this abusive, emotionally abusive behavior that sean has after david leaves. so, there's a real concern there.

    >> you know, it's funny, i would think to see some elation on your face this morning. i know you're tired, but i think you're just as cautious as david right now.

    >> mainly cautious with respect to david 's hopes but also very concerned that the message gets out that i am expecting the brazilian government and brazilian judiciary to do what they're supposed to do. this is their chance to demonstrate that the rule of law is going to apply in brazil .

    >> patricia appy, thanks very much for being with us this

updated 12/16/2009 7:43:01 PM ET 2009-12-17T00:43:01

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a 9-year-old boy living in Brazil should be returned to his American father, but the case will likely be appealed again, officials said.

A panel of three Brazilian judges ruled the boy must be handed over to his father, David Goldman, at the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro within 48 hours, said Ricardo Zamariola, Goldman's attorney.

"He's really happy but he is worried about any eventual future decision that could block the boy being handed over to him," said Zamariola, who added that he didn't expect a final resolution until at least the first half of next year.

Goldman's lengthy court battle to get custody of his son, Sean, has gained international attention as President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all weighed in, seeking the child's return.

Clinton said she was pleased to hear the latest court decision. "It is my hope that this long legal process is now complete and that the Goldman family will be reunited quickly. They will be in my thoughts and prayers today and throughout this holiday season," she said in a statement.

The decision by the federal appeals court in Rio de Janeiro upheld a Brazilian federal judge's earlier ruling.

Stepfather likely to appeal
But Zamariola said he was certain lawyers for Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, the Brazilian stepfather with whom Sean is living, would appeal, perhaps to the Supreme Court.

Lins e Silva's attorney, Sergio Tostes, declined to comment.

Goldman was not present for the ruling Wednesday and didn't return a request for comment made to his U.S.-based attorney, Patricia Apy. Zamariola said he spoke with Goldman and that he was expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday morning.

The case began in 2004, when Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, took then-4-year-old Sean to her native Brazil. Goldman says it was to be a two-week vacation.

But she stayed and so did the boy. She eventually was divorced there and remarried. Last year, she died giving birth to a daughter.

Goldman, who lives in Tinton Falls, N.J., had already been seeking his son's return under an international treaty that covers cross-border child abductions.

Bianchi's death generated more interest in the case, which has been discussed this year by top-level diplomats in Washington and the Brazilian capital, Brasilia. It also has been the subject of congressional hearings in the U.S. and has prompted protests in both countries.

Previous rulings favorable to Goldman have been scuttled by other Brazilian courts.

‘It's outstanding news’
But U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who has traveled to Brazil with Goldman and held congressional hearings on the issue, said he was optimistic Sean would soon be in the U.S.

"It's outstanding news," the New Jersey congressman said of Wednesday's ruling. "Even if there is an appeal, the order is to deliver Sean to the Embassy Friday."

Meanwhile, Sean's Brazilian maternal grandmother has said that Sean wants to stay in Rio. She has filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking that the boy's statements be taken into consideration. A similar request from the Brazilian family was denied earlier this year. The child, who has dual citizenship, has been shielded from speaking directly to the news media.

Both Goldman, a former model who now has a fishing charter business, and members of Bianchi's family, including her second husband, have appeared on television talk shows to make their case.

Goldman and his son reunited in February for the first time since the child was taken to Brazil. They have not seen each other since June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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