AP Interview: US dad would let relatives visit son

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - December 20, 2009

David Goldman, whose battle to return his 9-year-old boy, Sean, to the U.S. lies in the hands of a Brazilian Supreme Court justice, said he wants to spend the holidays with his son - in the United States.

"It's my hope we'll have ... the holidays and New Year's and a very long, happy, healed life as father and son - at home," Goldman told the AP in an exclusive interview. "My whole family and Sean's whole family have been waiting, agonizing for over five years to be reunited with their grandson, with their cousin, with their nephew, with my son."

Late Sunday, the court said in an online statement that Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes would rule Monday on appeals made by Goldman and Brazil's attorney general seeking to lift a stay on a lower court's order that Sean be handed over to his father.

If Mendes lifts the stay, lawyers in both camps said, the Brazilian family could still appeal to the nation's highest appeals court - but it's questionable whether that court would be willing to review the case if the Supreme Court backs a lower federal court ruling giving Goldman custody.

Goldman has pressed his case in U.S. and Brazilian courts since Sean was taken by his mother in 2004 to her native Brazil, where she then divorced Goldman and remarried. She died last year in childbirth, and the boy has lived with his stepfather since.

The lawyer for the boy's Brazilian family has offered to negotiate a settlement, and the family also invited Goldman to spend Christmas with them.

Goldman did not say whether he would accept the invitation if the case is not resolved this week.

Asked if Sean's Brazilian family would be able to visit the boy, Goldman said yes.

"I will not do to them what they've done to Sean and me," he said.

The case has affected diplomatic ties between Brazil and the U.S., reaching talks between President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. A U.S. senator, reacting to the case, blocked the renewal of a $2.75 billion trade deal this week that would lift tariffs on some Brazilian exports.

The U.S. State Department has pressed for the boy to be returned. But a Brazilian Supreme Court justice on Thursday stayed a lower court decision allowing Sean to return to his father.

Goldman - along with Brazil's attorney general - filed appeals Friday asking the Supreme Court to overturn the judge's decision to block Sean's return while the court considers hearing direct testimony from the boy.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian family's lawyer, Sergio Tostes, told the AP he would like to see a negotiated settlement worked out to halt the damage being done to Sean, as well as to U.S.-Brazil relations.

"We're raising the white flag and saying: 'Let's get together, let's talk. We're the adults, we have responsibilities, so let's start to have a constructive conversation,"' Tostes said.

Goldman, however, was in no mood to negotiate.

"This isn't about a shared custody - I'm his dad, I'm his only parent," Goldman said. "This isn't a custody case - it's an abduction case."

That is also how the U.S. and Brazilian governments see it. Tostes promised a hard battle to the end and threatened that some damaging details - presumably about Goldman - that had yet to be released would become public if needed. He gave no further explanation.

After many disappointments, Goldman said he is taking nothing for granted.

"Until my son and I are on a plane together and those wheels are up, I'll be no less determined and no less hopeful for that day to come," he said.

He said he can't wait to make up for lost time.

"I have five years of love to give him, so he's going to get an extraordinary amount," Goldman said. "With love and patience, we will heal."


AP Television News Producer Flora Charner contributed to this report.

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