Video: Brazil judge blocks boy's return to U.S.

  1. Closed captioning of: Brazil judge blocks boy's return to U.S.

    >>> 40% higher than last year.

    >>> last night here we told you about the surprise victory for david goldman , the new jersey dad who is trying to get his 9-year-old son back from brazil in a custody fight that has lasted five years. tonight, a new setback. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell has more on this latest twist in the story.

    >> reporter: david goldman was mobbed by the media when he arrived in rio this morning, hoping yesterday's unanimous appeals court ruling granting him custody of his son by friday would be the end of his five-year ordeal. just before the close of court today, another delay. a different judge, the same judge who stopped sean from being reunited with his father last june, again blocked the boy's return. goldman spoke exclusively to "dateline."

    >> this is absurd. this is ridiculous. this time we were assured more than ever the rule of law would be followed. that they get it, that they will do the right thing. and here we go again. it's shameful.

    >> reporter: goldman says the ruling is ridiculous because the judge also ruled that sean , who had little if any contact with his father for five years, should be questioned in court about where he wants to live. new jersey congressman chris smith is accompanying goldman in brazil and is outraged.

    >> justice delayed is a justice denied . in this case, david goldman versus brazil, justice has been denied repeatedly.

    >> reporter: the family drama began five years ago. sean 's brazilian mother took the boy to visit relatives in rio. later she divorced goldman , remarried and died in childbirth. sean 's stepfather refused to send him home and stymied goldman at every turn. he will go to court tomorrow to try to get today's ruling overturned. he faces a cruel deadline. after tomorrow, the higher court recesses until february. for now, goldman remains in brazil, still waiting to be reunited with his son. andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.

    >>> in what a lot of

updated 12/17/2009 8:35:46 PM ET 2009-12-18T01:35:46

Brazil's Supreme Court delayed the return of a 9-year-old boy to his U.S. father only hours after the man arrived from New Jersey on Thursday in hopes of taking the boy home for Christmas.

The court suspended the previous day's appellate court decision ordering the child handed over to David Goldman, and held that the boy must stay in Brazil while it considers whether to hear his testimony in a case that has dragged on for five years.

The ruling means the boy will be in Brazil at least until Feb. 1, following the judges' return from a recess, according to a court spokesman who commented on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the case.

"The court of appeals, the three judges, recognized the urgency of my son to come home. This stay is ridiculous," Goldman said.

Goldman's lawyer Ricardo Zamariola confirmed the ruling means he will be unable to pick up his son Sean at the American Consulate in Rio on Friday, as a federal appeals court had ruled on Wednesday.

"We're studying the decision, and we'll decide what to do soon," Zamariola said.

Grandmother elated
Thursday's ruling, written by Justice Marco Aurelio Mello, found that "at stake is a fully formed life. At stake is the right to come and go, the right of opinion, expression and human dignity."

Mello told reporters afterward that the Supreme Court will "question the necessity of Sean, the boy, who is almost 10 years old, to be heard directly by a judge."

Silvana Bianchi, Sean's maternal grandmother, told the privately run Agencia Estado news service she was elated with the decision. According to her, Sean, who has dual citizenship, has said he wants to remain in Brazil.

"His testimony has never been heard," she said. "As a Brazilian citizen, he deserves it. He is a child of nearly 10 and he knows quite well what he wants."

To underscore that point, the lawyer for the Brazilian family showed reporters a card he said Sean drew. "I want to stay in Brazil forever," it read in large, green lettering.

Goldman, however, said it was wrong to ask a child to testify. He suggested that the family is unduly pressuring the boy, trying to convince him that he wants to remain in Brazil.

"Everyone knows the abuse that my son is being afflicted by," he said.

Brazil "does not want to be looked at as a country that is a safe haven for kidnappers, that will allow a child to remain separated from their only parent," Goldman added.

Wife's Brazilian divorce
In 2004, Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, took 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 obtained a Brazilian divorce and remarried.

Goldman was already seeking his son's return under an international treaty that covers cross-border child abductions when his former wife died last year while giving birth to a daughter.

Image: David Goldman
Felipe Dana  /  AP
David Goldman, left, arrives at Rio de Janeiro's airport.
President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have all urged the child's return, and a U.S. congressman traveled to Rio on Thursday to continue lobbying the case.

Rep. Chris Smith said he was deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court's ruling and called on Brazil to send the boy back to the U.S. based on international law.

"We have a reciprocity agreement when it comes to abducted children," Smith said. "We all have an international obligation to work to get children back to their habitual residence."

‘Pursuit of truth’
Sergio Tostes, attorney for Sean's stepfather, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, said the case should never have reached such high political levels.

"This is not a fight between two countries," Tostes said. "This is just the pursuit of the truth and the pursuit of what is in the best interest of the boy."

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

Earlier Thursday, before the Supreme Court stay was announced, Goldman, dressed in black, stepped off a 12-hour flight from New York and into a large scrum of reporters in Rio.

Facing the crowd of cameras and microphones, he looked blank and appeared a man exhausted — by the flight, the custody fight and the possibility another last-minute appeal would keep him from taking his boy back to New Jersey.

"I hope I can go home with my son," Goldman said quietly.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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