ike millions of Americans, Rep. Chris Smith and his wife, Marie, watched David Goldman’s story unfold before them on national television Friday night. Like millions of Americans, they felt both sadness and outrage.
“At the end of the show, when David makes his plea, my wife turns to me and goes, ‘You’ve got to do something, you’ve got to jump in there,’ ” Smith, R-N.J., said Wednesday evening.
He was on his way to the airport in Washington, D.C., to catch a flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil. There he would meet Goldman, who was taking the red-eye out of Newark, and they would travel together to Brasilia.
Goldman is the Tinton Falls man whose former wife, Bruna, left to go on a two-week vacation to Brazil on June 16, 2004, and never came home. She took their son, Sean, who was 4 years old at the time. Over the past 4-1/2 years, Goldman has made five trips to Brazil, but has never been allowed to see his son.
Bruna remarried in Brazil, had a baby this past August, and died eight hours after giving birth. Her Brazilian husband, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, a lawyer from a prominent family in Rio de Janeiro, has done everything in his power to keep Goldman away from his son since Bruna died.
Like millions of Americans watching “Dateline” Friday night, Smith was bowled over by the enormity of the injustice. Unlike millions of Americans, he was in a position to do something for Goldman. So he did, acting promptly.
He got on the phone and called his staff at 11 that night, right after the show was over. A staffer then contacted Goldman and set up a meeting for Monday at Smith’s office in Manchester.
On Monday, they had a two-hour meeting. Smith told Goldman he would go with him to the next court hearing in Brasilia, scheduled for Friday.
“He said, ‘Wherever you go, I go,’” Goldman recalled.
On Wednesday, less than 48 hours later, Smith submitted to the House of Representatives House Resolution 125: “Calling on the Central Authority of Brazil to immediately discharge all its duties under the Hague Convention by facilitating and
supporting federal judicial proceedings as a matter of extreme urgency to obtain the return of Sean Goldman to his father David Goldman for immediate return to the United States.”
Smith said it was important for him to get the resolution in before he left for Brazil.
“We really need to raise the level of visibility,” he said.
“This case really needs to be bumped up to the political level,” said Smith, who promises to push to get the resolution passed.
The congressman is no stranger to the arena of human rights, including children’s rights. Last summer, for instance, he went to the rescue of two little girls from Howell. They were visiting their grandparents in the Republic of Georgia when war broke out. Smith helped bring the girls home.
“When I first heard David’s story, I contacted the ambassador to Brazil,” Smith said. “This case was the clearest violation of the Hague Treaty that anyone in the State Department could remember. It was a textbook case of injustice.
“David has done everything by the book from the beginning, crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s … the injustice has been perpetuated by a legal system that seems to have ‘localitis,’ if there is such a word.”
Goldman is familiar with the concept.
“The hearing is still being held to determine who’s better equipped to raise my child, me or the man who kidnapped my son,” he said. “It’s totally absurd.
“I’m filled with anxiety, the same way I always am when I go down there. But I’m also grateful beyond belief that Congressman Smith has offered himself up to be part of this. We’ve been so desperate for someone to champion the cause.”
Since “Dateline” aired, the number of signatures on Goldman’s online petition — at www.bringseanhome.org— has jumped from fewer than 3,000 to well over 20,000.
Goldman has been swamped with e-mails since the show aired, and his phone is ringing off the hook.
“It was a draining day for David,” Smith said Friday evening. “But he stayed disciplined. I don’t know how he does it sometimes.”