Part IV: The Last Moments of the Sean Goldman Case

Revista Piauí

The Last Moments of the Sean Goldman Case
Piauí Magazine, Brazil
February 2010

Dorrit Harazim reports on the negotiations and pressure up to the moment the boy was put on an airplane back to the United States with his father


Page 4 of 4

For the time being the lawyer is focused on an entirely different area. He and a group of twenty friends leave on June 3rd for South Africa. It will be his second World Cup and, if it is up to him, he will repeat the pilgrimage every four years, if he can. In the heat of the Sean Goldman case he decided on his own to book the tickets, to rent three motor homes, and draw up the maps and strategy to get tickets at the time. If he is as successful as he was in the Supreme Court, he may well watch the Final.

After the national news, Orna Blum left David Goldman’s room – he wanted to be alone if the decision were going to be announced – and went to the lawyers’ room. She wanted to know if they could speak to the press camped outside the hotel. The NBC producer, Benita Noel, had also set herself up in Zamariola and Ortiz’ room with a camera.

Orna Blum got a call from an Associated Press reporter and repeated out load in a stressed voice what he said to her in English: AP is reporting STF twitter that Mendes is coming out in support of the Goldman side…

Marcos Ortiz whooped, and then punched the air on hearing the words “annul the injunction and return the boy to his father” on his cell phone. Zamariola, lying on his back on the bed, almost did not move. It took him a while to hug his partner.

Ricardo Zamariola then called Patricia Lamego, at the Central Authority: “We won, man, he annulled the injunction. I don’t know the details of the ruling yet, but I’ll tell you as soon as I do.” Marcos Ortiz asked Paulo Roberto Andrade, in Brasília, not to talk to the press for the time being, and not to leave the Supreme Court until the terms of Gilmar Mendes’ decision were clear.

“Now, please, explain what we have, in English,” asked Orna Blum, whose cell phone had almost become an animate object with all the calls it was getting. “‘What is cassa a liminar?”

There were a few minutes of confusion until Ricardo Zamariola could speak to his client: “David? I haven’t seen it all yet. First I need to read the text of the ruling. But we have been through this before and we have not managed to carry it out. So, let’s read the whole thing calmly and see where to begin. Yes, get some rest and we will talk as soon as I have everything in my hands.”

Benita Noel went down the stairs and knocked on David Goldman’s door. He was sitting in a chair with his laptop in front of him when the producer began to film the first public reaction by the 42-year-old man whose life had been turned upside down. “Happy? Surprised?” she asked. David’s voice was a monotone, asking a question that reflected his lawyer’s caution: “When are we leaving? When will this really end?”

Asked what he thought of his Brazilian lawyers, Goldman relaxed a little: “They are great guys. With lawyers like them, and the decisions that have been taken recently, the future of this country looks promising to me.”

In his room, Marcos Ortiz called the Federal Court of Appeals in Rio de Janeiro. He wanted to know where the fax of Gilmar Mendes’ ruling was. But it was in vain. The duty staff was at home and not in the Federal Court of Appeals building.

Ricardo Zamariola, meanwhile, had solved a mystery. “Listen to this, Marcão,” he told Ortiz, reading the news: Supreme Court receives request to free Roger Abdelmassih. ‘”That explains why Thomaz Bastos went to the Supreme Court. And I have no doubt: Roger will be at home for Christmas.” He then answered a call from his girlfriend: “Hey, what’s up? Take it easy. We are going to wait. Keep your phone on. I’ll call you. Bye.”

Aldrin has known Zamariola for ten years. They dated, split up, and have been back together for a year again. Having graduated in psychology from the Pontific Catholic University three years ago, she says her profession has helped her understand the personal impact the Sean Goldman case had on her boyfriend. “He used to ask me: ‘Do you think the boy will readapt to the United States?’ He felt partly responsible for getting the boy back to his father, and thinks David Goldman is a solid father. For him, it was not just about business.”

Benita Noel asked for Zamariola’s permission to air the recording of them at the time the announcement was made. The lawyer was adamant: “No, no and no. You can show David, not us. Please, the child is not on the plane yet. Later, when it’s all over, all right.”

The full text of the ruling by Gilmar Mendes finally appeared, on the website Consultor Jurídico. Ortiz and Zamariola read it out loud, fast: “Registering the legal ruling on the premises of fact, there are no more ways to challenge them, whether ordinarily or extraordinarily…” Ortiz was in raptures: “Look at that bit!”

Marcos Ortiz was concerned with the practical details of the following day. “We are not going to get a second’s sleep today,” he said. “And we are not sending any shirts to the laundry, because it’s closed. We’ll have to wear the same ones again.” It seemed like break time in room 1001.

But the lawyers were soon worrying again. They were thinking about the maternal family not handing Sean over to the Superior Tribunal of Justice until it had a ruling on the pending appeals. They planned the next day’s strategy and went to sleep at 2:20 AM.

In Brasilia, Paulo Roberto Andrade fell asleep in a room in the Hotel Mercure, whose daily rate is R$230. He was the only one who knew the capital, having stayed there in 2008, when he went to the Brazilian soccer championship final between São Paulo and Goiás (“One – nil to us. The sixth championship!” he explains). The night before he had slept at an aunt’s house in Lago Norte, but he did not want to wake her up at in the early hours.

Marcos Ortiz and Zamariola were up at 7:20 AM on Wednesday December 23rd. They put on their shirts, ties and socks from the day before. They had breakfast and took a taxi to Rua do Acre, where the Federal Court of Appeals is based. The lawyer for the Lins e Silva family, Sergio Tostes, had contacted the Office of the Attorney General to ask for guarantees for Sean’s protection in the USA. They thought it was a sign that there would be no argument or fighting.

With the battle over at the STF, the front in Brasilia could be moved to the Superior Tribunal of Justice, and that is where Paulo Roberto de Andrade went. He found an empty building, except for cleaners who were washing the floor. His mission in the Federal District was over. At a bookstand in front of the STJ he bought Lira dos Vinte Anos, by Álvares de Azevedo, to read on the flight to São Paulo.

Zamariola and Ortiz were welcomed at the court on Rua do Acre by the President of the TRF. That was when they learned that the deadline for the voluntary handing over of the boy would expire the next day, at 9 AM, at the US Consulate in Rio. They had lunch at a café nearby and killed time until the meeting with Sergio Tostes to negotiate the way Sean would be handed over. At the suggestion of Daniel Levy, the Chief Prosecutor at the Office of the Attorney General (AGU), the meeting was set to take place at the AGU’s headquarters, on Avenida Rio Branco.

At 4:30 PM the meeting began. Sergio Tostes, his brother, lawyer André Tostes, Ricardo Zamariola and Marcos Ortiz sat facing each other across a very long table. Daniel Levy sat at the head, in the role of mediator.

By the account the two lawyers from São Paulo give, the meeting lasted almost two hours and had its moments of tension. Sergio Tostes kicked off, wanting a meeting between David Goldman and Silvana Bianchi: the boy’s grandmother wanted to make recommendations about his eating habits and other matters of his care. Zamariola said he had nothing against it. He added that the meeting could be held anywhere, except the grandmother’s house. The suggestion that the father and grandmother meet at the US Consulate was accepted.

“Next, I suggested we fetch the boy from the house,” says Zamariola. “We would get the Police to close off the block to avoid access by the press. The family would walk out with Sean, the boy would get in the car parked at the door and we would go away.” Sergio Tostes did not want the handover to be mediated by Karen de Andrade, the head of the diplomatic service at the US Consulate. Zamariola said he could try to get another diplomat.

Tostes then asked for the grandmother to travel with her grandson to the United States. Zamariola explained that, knowing this would be requested, he had asked his client and his lawyer in the United States. And he said:

– I cannot deal with this request.

– But if you are not my interlocutor, then I want to talk to who is. Put me in touch with the person at the US Embassy or the person who can make this decision.

Zamariola said it was not a matter of interlocution, and proposed they straighten out the easier points with their respective clients. The issue of the grandmother’s traveling would come later.

Before Zamariola left the room to consult with David Goldman, Marcos Ortiz wanted to know from Tostes if what had already been agreed was still valid: the meeting between the grandmother and Sean’s father at the Consulate and the handover of the boy at the house.

– Whatever the result of the third point, the first two have been decided, right? – he asked.

– Right – replied Tostes.

On returning to the room, Zamariola reported the results of his consultation with Goldman: “The meeting with the grandmother can be today, at 6 PM, at the Consulate. And we will go to the house to fetch the boy, no problem. But I cannot let the grandmother travel.”

According to the São Paulo lawyers, the mood changed. Sergio Tostes raised his voice, gathered up paper that was on the table and said:

– Then there is no deal on anything. What about visiting rights – what is that going to be like in the United States?

– This is not an issue to be discussed now – replied Marcos Ortiz.

– I want to know about visiting rights – insisted Tostes. – You are not thinking about the child’s wellbeing… You are giving me nothing, you have made no concessions. What you want is for the order to be complied with. So, the order will be complied faithfully, as Judge Gilmar Mendes has ruled… And I will arrive at the Consulate with the child on foot.

Mediator Daniel Levy argued that walking to the Consulate would expose the child to a barrage from the press. Tostes replied that it was what the other side wanted. It was suggested that Sean enter the Consulate garage, which would be duly blocked off, in the family car.

– If they go through the garage – said Tostes – my client will come out of this looking like a kidnapper. I cannot allow that. I will comply with the order as determined by the judge. I will walk. I will park two blocks from the Consulate and walk with the child.

The meeting ended without agreement.

The lawyers told David Goldman what had happened. Upon being informed, the US Embassy released a statement saying that it was willing to facilitate the handover and to guarantee Sean’s privacy on his arrival at the Consulate.

Before calling it a day, at 11:30 PM, the three partners together decided by telephone that Ricardo Zamariola would travel on the plane chartered by NBC until Sean Goldman landed in the United States. “It could be interesting for the firm,” he told Paulo Roberto de Andrade. “I’ll go tomorrow and come back Sunday,” he repeated before falling into his hotel bed.

Ricardo Zamariola woke up feeling bad on December 24th. He was feeling down because he had to spend Christmas alone in a foreign land. At 9 AM the twelve floors of the Itaporanga office building on Alameda Santos were silent. Only on the sixth floor was there a sign of life. That is where Paulo Roberto Andrade was, in a crisp white shirt, back in one piece after his marathon in Brasilia. He is seen as the “psychologist” of the three lawyers, while Ortiz is the “optimist,” and Zamariola, was the “intense one.” He says the two founding partners were still thinking about Ortiz going with the junior partner to the United States, but there was no way to convince him.

The NBC producer, Benita Noel, for her part, woke up full of energy: she would be spending Christmas with her daughter, Jessica. The cat and mouse game with the ABC team, spying on each other in the corridors of the Marriott throughout the night would finally be over. The rival had discovered the NBC-chartered flight and the dyke of civility had almost burst. The accusations that NBC had been involved in checkbook journalism would go on for a long time yet. But no one suspected that the Gulfstream-G4 pilot, co-pilot and flight attendant were staying at the same hotel, and walked around carrying briefcases with the Exxon logo on them, made by themselves as a decoy.

In charge of the exit operation, Benita left the hotel straight for the Galeão airport, to wait for David and Sean Goldman. A distinguished-looking brunette, she hid her hair under a very blonde wig bought a few days beforehand at Perucas Lady on Rua Barata Ribeiro, for R$600. She left unnoticed in a rented van.

As expected, mayhem was breaking out around the US Consulate, in the middle of Rio. Brazilian and American broadcasters were going live for the chaotic arrival of Sean Goldman’s group – on foot and through the front door, as promised by Sergio Tostes. What few saw was the continuation of the ruckus after the group had gone in and the doors had been closed.

“I want to talk to David. He must come here to talk to me,” demanded Sergio Tostes. One of the São Paulo lawyers told him that lawyers talk to lawyers, and that David Goldman was on the 2nd floor, where he would meet his son’s grandmother and no one else. “He has to be man enough to come here and talk to me. If he doesn’t, he is not a man,” insisted Tostes.

His next target was Congressman Chris Smith, whom he accused of provoking him, adding, in English, that he hoped he loses the next election.

To Orna Blum, who had asked why he had not used the garage entrance, the lawyer replied first in Portuguese: “This is as protest because the boy is travelling alone.” And in English: “We are in Brazil, this is our country. This is a protest.”

It was 9:20 AM when Paulo Roberto Andrade answered a call from Marcos Ortiz, who told him that the father and son were talking alone on the 2nd floor of the Consulate.

After the grandson and grandmother said their farewells, David Goldman, Sean Goldman, Karen de Andrade and a security guard went in a first car to Galeão. In a second car, which was carrying Chris Smith, Orna Blum, Marcos Ortiz, a nurse and a security guard, Ricardo Zamariola texted his girlfriend: “I think I’m going to take a vacation.”

He said goodbye to David Goldman in a waiting room in the airport. From there he headed straight to a domestic terminal and got on a flight to Congonhas airport, in São Paulo. It was ten minutes to Christmas Day.


Copyright 2010 Piauí Magazine, All Rights Reserved

Skip to toolbar