Part II: 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 2 of 4

At the end of a recent interview, when yet another storm was about to lash São Paulo, Ricardo Zamariola remembered something. With a look on his face saying he wanted to surprise the interviewer, he opened the first drawer in his work desk and began to rummage around. As the drawer was shallow and its content chaotic, he was being careful. “Wow, I can’t find it. I must have left it somewhere else,” he apologized disappointedly.

He was looking for the cork from a bottle of champagne that he and his two partners opened in 2004 when the office moved to its new address, near Avenida Paulista. “I think Marcão and Paulinho don’t even know I kept it.” Stretching his fingers into the drawer one last time, he touched something that he did not immediately recognize by touch. Chuckling, he pulled out a crumpled white sock and said: “Wow – that has been there for months, since that time I had to get dressed and rush out of home. When I got here my secretary pointed it out and went to Paulista to buy a black pair.”

The cork and sock explain a little about who Ricardo Zamariola Jr., a 28-year-old native of São Paulo, is. His partners and inseparable friends are a little older than he is: Marcos Tranchesi Ortiz – Marcão – is 33 years old, and Paulo Roberto Andrade – Paulinho – is 32. The three have fewer years of life experience than many of the lawyers they have faced in the Sean Goldman case have experience in the law.

Ortiz and Andrade were recently graduated from the Law School at Largo São Francisco when they opened the firm in 1999. They invited Zamariola to join them at the small office on Rua Libero Badaró, on the top floor of a building whose elevator did not go up all the way: final access was by the fire escape. Ricardo Zamariola, who was still in his first year at university, studied in the morning and worked in the afternoon, making R $280 a month. He was the only intern and shared a computer with the secretary. He borrowed money from his maternal grandfather to buy a suit.

Ortiz and Andrade were friends at Colégio Santa Cruz, one of the best-known high schools in São Paulo, while Zamariola, along with his two brothers, studied in public schools until they got into Mackenzie in the second year of high school. It was their maternal grandfather, Octávio Elias Rochel, who paid for their studies – a stickler for education who was born into a rural family (his father was semi-literate) and who had a career in Brazil’s federal tax office. When Junior (the lawyer’s childhood nickname) graduated before his 23rd birthday the family had to celebrate. And they celebrated again last year, when “Zamariola” was added to the friends’ company name.

The three now work in an office space of 210 square meters on Alameda Santos. Ortiz and Andrade work in tax law, while the junior partner has specialized in civil law. It was almost by chance that they got the first case in Brazil involving the Hague Convention, an international agreement created in 1993, which Brazil signed up to in 2000, dealing with the protection of children and adolescents in matters of adoption.

In 2002 a telephone consultation by a Swedish father from the village of Ljusne (population 2,155) was made to the former Libero Badará office. The man said that he was legally separated from his Brazilian wife, with whom he had had a child. The three lived in Sweden and his custody of the child was perfectly in order under Swedish law. One day, out of the blue, the mother went to Santos with the boy and never returned. The man wanted to know what to do.

Luckily, one of Ortiz’ sisters-in-law, now a teacher of international law, knew about the existence of the Hague Convention and advised him about it. The Convention had never been used in Brazilian courts, and Brazil had never even nominated a Central Authority to monitor compliance with the treaty. “It was all so new,” remembers Ricardo Zamariola, “that Marcos was absolutely successful.” Just a few months passed between the filing of the initial petition and the ruling by a Judge. On the same day the Judge made the ruling that the boy be returned, the search and seizure warrant was executed. Marcos Ortiz raced up the mountains from Santos to São Paulo in his Golf like a madman, with the Swede and his son with him. The boy was still in his school uniform. Partner Paulo Andrade, meanwhile, had gotten the air tickets for a flight that night fromGuarulhos to Frankfurt. Allowing for about twenty minutes of dramatic confusion at the time of boarding, when the mother arrived, it all went well. Later the parents ended up coming to an agreement over custody.

Soon after, the office had another case. All those involved were Brazilian and lived in the United States. The child was taken to Goiás State by the mother without the father’s authorization, and Zamariola handled the case. “I was still what they called an intern-partner – in other words I was wet behind the ears. I was graduating and Marcos had to supervise me,” he says. The boy was returned to his father by way of an injunction, and the lawyer went along with the search and seizure warrant in Goiás.

It took just two more similar cases for the name Ricardo Zamariola to enter the list of lawyers familiar with the Hague Convention kept at the Office of Children’s Issues, at the US Department of State, the equivalent of Brazil’s Central Authority. From then on, consultations and contacts became routine. The young lawyer calculates that he had contact with at least half the cases in Brazil that involved the Hague Convention.

He became an authority on the subject, which had no profile in Brazil, which went perfectly with his character. The two partners joked that although he was the junior, he was the oldest of the three. “He is the most level-headed of his siblings,” says his mother, Marcia, a dentist. “He is very quiet: he took the New Testament when he went to live alone.” His girlfriend Aldrin TenbeI Sanches, says, “We are the quiet couple at parties,” blushing, which betrays her Czech roots.

This promising lawyer could have had a quiet life had it not been for a voicemail left for Zamariola in September 2004, from a law firm in Red Bank, New Jersey. Left by Patricia Apy, it asked if he would be interested in the following case: an American father had married a Brazilian and they had had a child; she had left on vacation with the boy for Brazil and had kept him in Rio against his father’s wishes; the mother was granted custody of the boy by a Family Court in Rio de Janeiro city and she had married again. The case was not closed.

Zamariola accepted it immediately. The case did not seem so different to him from the others he had worked on, and so he asked for a fee of US$14,000. He could not have imagined the extent of the legal, procedural, political, diplomatic and emotional mess he was getting into. Not to mention the fatality that made the case unique: Bruna Bianchi, Sean Goldman’s young mother, died in August 2008, giving birth to a daughter from her second marriage. And the stepfather João Paulo Lins e Silva planned to take on guardianship of his stepson.

On the morning of December 22nd Ricardo Zamariola was rudely awaken by knocking at the door. “Did something happen during the night?” he asked himself. It was the Marriott housekeeper delivering the clothes the lawyers had sent to be laundered urgently overnight. Marcos Ortiz had left São Paulo with only the clothes he stood up in, and Zamariola has packed only shorts and summer shirts. They both got dressed as lawyers, in a suit and tie.

Before 10 in the morning Ricardo Zamariola has spoken on the telephone to Patricia Apy, David Goldman’s lawyer in the United States. The Brazilian’s English is fluent and his vocabulary, vast. His mother says the family was still living in the Butantã neighborhood of São Paulo when her son began asking, “Mom, Globo is publishing some courses in German, English and French and they are selling them at our newsstand – will you buy the English one for me?” As of 13 years of age Zamariola began listening to tape after tape. “He walked everywhere listening to the tapes, and then he would do the exercises,” remembers Marcia Zamariola. He never did a course and only last month set foot for the first time in an English-speaking country. He unraveled the legal jargon in the Sean Goldman case in English without any difficulty.

His almost-obsessive discipline also got him into university to study law at 17 years of age. He was studying for his final year at high school and decided to do the preparatory course for the university entrance examination, telling his friends: “I am dead between 10 at night on Sunday and six in the afternoon on Saturday. Don’t look for me then, because I’ll be studying.” Over the weekend, he hit the town. He did the entrance examination for The Catholic Pontific University, Mackenzie and the University of São Paulo. He was not very bothered about the first two, he jumped for such joy that he broke his bed when he was accepted by Largo São Francisco, Brazil’s most prestigious law school.

In the first telephone call made by Paulo Roberto Andrade, who had resumed his post in the President of the Supreme Court’s anteroom, he talk to Marcos Ortiz about news that had broken that morning in the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo: if it was decided that the boy could return with his father to the United States, Sean’s grandmother wanted to go with him on the airplane. David Goldman was against it. Zamariola, depending on the circumstances, would not refuse. Patricia Apy argued that the grandmother might get sick in the middle of the flight and the airplane would have to turn back to Rio. Ricardo Zamariola and the American Patricia Apy only knew each other by telephone. They had never taken a decision in Sean’s case without coming to an agreement first. Sometimes she gave way and sometimes he did.

Paulo Roberto Andrade called again to report what he had heard from an advisor of Gilmar Mendes’. On learning of the existence of another appeal by the Brazilian family to the Superior Tribunal of Justice, the staffer let it slip: “But this is devious – what do these guys think they are doing?” On hearing this, Marcos Ortiz said: “No adviser would be speaking like that if his opinion did not match that of his boss. If he is saying that it is because he is feeling worn out.”

Another report in the newspaper quoted Sergio Tostes, the lawyer for the Lins e Silva family: if Sean Goldman went to the United States with his father, he would board wearing a Brazilian soccer shirt. There was speculation over whether David Goldman should also wear a Brazil soccer shirt. “This show they were putting on has created bad public feeling in Brazil,” said Zamariola. “We are not in the business of marketing.”

Continued Page 3

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