Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Update on the Sean Goldman case


  The last few months of my life have been consumed with the Sean Goldman case. There are so many reasons I decided to become an activist in this case:

1) I am a new empty nester. Therefore, more time on my hands.

2) The sheer unfairness of this case stroke a chord with me. I was able to empathize with the father’s pain being a parent myself.

3) Bruna Carneiro Ribeiro was from a similar background I am from: upper middle classs Brazilian. I know all the traps and the worldview of coming from that kind of background.

4) I could effectively help. I knew my Portuguese skills and my knowledge of the Brazilian society and Brazilian history could be useful to David’s friends. Additionally, like some other Brazilian-Americans helping the cause, we know BOTH societies and languages well, which gives us a better understanding of each reality.

5) I was also married to a foreigner and we moved many times, from city to city, and it amazes me that Bruna was not mature enough to trust her husband and make plans with HIM.

I have never met David, but I felt sincerity in his words. I watched the home videos and it was clear as water this is a father who deeply loved his son and was over the moon with happiness in being Sean’s father.

This was all taken away from him, because of the ignorance, fear and cowardice of his wife and her parents. Bruna was not fully aware of the law. She she should have known she could have joint custody of Sean and that if she decided to live in Rio, David could even try to make an arrangment with her.  Even if she knew, she was too scared to try doing things the legal way.

She did not try to save her marriage. She did not try to talk to her husband. Why she did not sit with her husband and explain to him how she felt about life in New Jersey is beyond me. If she loved him, obviously she would have tried to work something out that included him.

She was probably one of these people who internalize their feelings and only share them with their mother or a best friend. Clearly David was not her best friend, or she could have shared with him her unhappiness about living in New Jersey and how the 3 of them could try to live in Rio.

That is what happens when a mother does not let her daughter grow up and live her own life and make her own decisions. Silvana Bianchi, of Italian descent, seemed to be overpowering. She probably fed into her daughter’s disatisfaction with life in the US. She probably did not tell her daughter to work things out with her husband. She probably meddled with her daughter’s marriage, a mistake many mothers-in-law make, hence their bad reputation. But let’s not forget Bruna’s father, who also condoned all the her actions. 

Apparently they were against Bruna marrying David from day one. The idea of a daughter marrying a “model” is not very well received for many upper class Brazilians. Even in America, there is a bit of misconception about male models.

The big mystery in this case is whether Bruna was already communicating with her future husband, João Paulo Lins e Silva, before her planned escape to Rio. Email makes it very easy. JP was recently divorced, and they had had a fling in the past. It is not hard to imagine that she saw in him, with momma’s blessings, a ticket to a better life-and a famous last name. This may explain why BRUNA NEVER GAVE DAVID A CHANCE.  Her mind was already made up. No amount of conversation from David would make her want to stay with him, because ultimately, it was not about New Jersey, but about the fact she did not want to be married to him anymore. And it had nothing to do with him as a person, but the fact that a chance presented itself for her to have a better life, while at the same time pleasing her parents. Life in sunny Rio with her family’s support and a high society husband seemed easier and less stressful.

Bruna might have not studied fashion in Rio and then later Milan with the thought of competing in that tough and competitive job market. She might have gone to College to kill time until she found a husband. Fashion, Art, History, Languages, etc are Humanities that do not involve sleepless nights of studying. That is how many Brazilian women from my generation, older and younger, were raised: get a “husband-chasing degree”.  Then expect a man to take care of you, while you can earn money for “fun”. 

David did not become the big bucks model she expected. JPLeS was young, cute and from a “good family”. He was the perfect catch, and with momma’s blessing, she decided to throw away David like an old pair of slippers.

Mistakes happened, and now everyone involved with the case suffers. The errors of the past must be corrected now. Sean must be returned to David as soon as possible, so less damage is done to his pysche. The mother’s family has proved to have no knowledge of child psychology, exposing him to a conflict and a life drama that his 9 year old brain is not prepared to understand. They also tried to tarnish his beloved father’s image, with whom the boy was extremely close with in 2004, by portraying him as a menacing foreigner in his eyes.  Fortunately, it seems the damage has not been 100%, since Sean was obviously affectionate and realxed during David’s first visit with him. Additionally, Sean may have some memory left of his first formative years.

In March we protested in front of the White House where Obama was meeting the President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. We thought that with Obama’s knowledge of the case and Hillary Clinton’s clear support, it would be just a matter of days for Sean to be returned to his father.

We had good signs here and there. One piece of news that gave us hope was when a judge denied the maternal family’s request to return the case of State courts instead of the Federal level. The Step-father’s family had a lot more control over the State courts, where they reign.

That was followed by the interviews made by court-appointed child psychologists, who interviewed Sean. We were shocked to hear that these interviews had been spilled by the maternal family to the press, emphasizing the boy’s comments that he did not want to be sent to the US.

Any person with a mininum common sense knows that if you lie to a child and you are the authority figure, this child will believe in you. One example is the sniper who terrorized Washington DC in September of 2001, who brainwashed a 17 year old into thinking they had to kill all those who were against them.

If Sean’s grandmother, grandfather, uncle and step-father are all telling him his father abandoned him, that his father was bad to his mother, that his father only wants their money and that the place his father lives is horrible the boy will believe every word they say, just like a child this age still believes in monsters and ghosts at his doorstep at night. Parental alienation is a horrible and cruel crime.

When the child psychologists’ reports became public, it concluded that Sean had been victim of parental alienation. As sad as learning that was, it gave us hope that finally the public opinion would be enraged enough and that the pressure on politicians and judges would also be overwhelming.

The public opinion was majorly pro-David, in every blog, newspaper and website both in the US and in Brazil. However, the LeS and the Carneiro Ribeiros, who even became known as the “Famiglia’ or the “Dark Side”, for the manipulations and machinations, used every little dirty trick up their sleeves to deter and stall the judicial proceedings.

I remember the day and time I heard the good news that the Supreme Court had authorized Sean to return to his father. It was a Monday where I had had an early morning meeting, was exhausted and had decided to go home earlier than the usual 8 PM and enjoy the sun on my backyard.

I had my iPhone with me, and checked the site under the late afternoon sun, and there it was: “Breaking News: Judge decides that Sean is to be returned to his father”. Wow, what a happy moment. It was almost surreal, after the thousands of emails and postings in websites for several months, the endless frustration with the “Famiglia” and the constant attacks by their camp in several forums and blogs.

Everyone who followed the website rejoiced. David was going to leave immediately, probably dropping whatever he was doing, to run to the airport. I could only imagine how relieved and hopeful he was inside. The document produced by Judge Pinto was an 82 page document beautifully covering every aspect of this case, proving parental alienation and recommending Sean’s return to the USA and to this father in 48 hours.

David arrived Tuesday morning in Rio. Rumors of appeals from the “dark side” abounded, and we knew they probably had them ready to go. On the other hand, the 82 page document produced by Judge Pinto was so complete, so air-tight, that we thought there was no way anyone would accept an appeal.

Tuesday night my husband and I were looking at all the happy posts on when I saw another “Breaking news” post. For a moment I thought it was a repetition of yesterday’s news, but my husband pointed out that it said “Judge STAYED the decision”. And there it was: apparently, an obscure political party, called the Progressive Party (a right wing libertarian party), was able to file a motion against Judge Pinto’s decision. The president of the party is a Senator who has close links to the the Carneiro Ribeiro’s, Bruna’s family.  The Progressive Party wanted Brazil to get out of the Hague Convention, just in time for Sean to stay in Brazil. How convenient is that, to change the law when it is not working your way?

A judge from the Brazilian Supreme Court, Judge Marco Aurelio Mello, accepted this motion, and went on national television to say that the “boy’s wishes had not been respected”. That’s all fine and dandy if the boy was 15 and not a victim of DIAGNOSED parental alienation. And should we add, Stockholm Syndrome.

The twists and turns of this case will make for a very good Hollywood movie. Political intrigue and personal liaisons abound.  Bruna’s aunt was Maria Augusta Carneiro Ribeiro (nickname Guta), the only woman from a 60’s guerrilla group which fought agains the military regime, many times using  some form of violence, amongst them, the kidnapping of the American Ambassador in those days. The United States was accused of aligning itself with the military dictatorship Brazil went through in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

It turns out that with Lula’s presidency, many former extreme left guerrilla members are now in power. Even though Lula himself does not have any guerrilla background (he was an Union leader and then Worker’s party president), he had to accomodate the old leftish staples in his government; after all, they helped Democracy come back to the country.

It turned out that the Minister of Human Rights, Paulo Vannucci, who started showing more and more signs of non-compliance with The Hague Convention, was Guta’s “brother in arms” from the guerilla days. He innapropriately called for a “town hall” meeting at the  House of Representatives, where only the “Dark side” was represented. One lucid and excellent speaker defended David’s case, urging Brazil to return Sean to his rightful father: Representative Paes de Lira. Guta and Paulo Vannucci’s connection became public, showing everyone that David was fighting against one of the most influential and powerful families in Brazil, every way you looked.

A sense of entitlement and class permeates every comment made in every blog where the family or their accolytes write. They constantly put down David Goldman for not being rich, as if money was the only criteria that made parents be good parents. Their obsession with money is palpable, and one of the their worries is that David would have access to Sean’s inheritance, which David has publicly renounced to (and would never have rights to, as anyone with a minimum knowledge of inheritance laws knows).

Their hatred of David is probably due to the fact that David brought this case to light. David was not content in just using the slow justice system in Brazil. When he met Mark D’Angelo, who sympathized with his plight and decided to help him, the website Bring Sean Home came to fruition. At that moment the internet was a huge catalyst in making this case be known internationally. Before that, the Lins e Silva and the grandparents wished the case would stay quiet, so they could continue their abducting in peace.

As a Brazilian, I am ashamed about this turn of events. It shows a country that does not respect human rights. The alienable right to raise your own children. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) proposed to the House that sanctions be made against Brazil. As much it hurts me to see my fellow Brazilians affected because of this selfish family’s acts, I think that something more than talks behind closed doors with Foreign Ministers should be done.

As it stands now, 11 judges from the STF (the Brazilian Supreme Court) should make a decision whether to accept the motion made by the Progressive Party or not.  We are in suspense again. To be continued….


June 8, 2009 - Posted by | Activism


  1. A very well thought out and written article. I was also overjoyed when I heard that Sean was going to be returned to his father – however, I never did celebrate, sure that something was going to go wrong. It did. Are you in Brazil right now? You should mail this to whatever representatives or government officials you feel need to be persuaded to send Sean home – it’s very compelling. In the meantime, I suppose there is little we can do but wait, pray, and hope a date for the next trial is set to be very soon.

    Comment by Sarah | June 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. I sympathize with the american biological father of this kid,and sure i want him with his american father his real father on the other hand i think Brazil is a better place for this young kid (maybe we should compromise and let the father move to Rio and live there with his son ).
    I was surprised to know how american boys are treated in this country it starts when they are delivered they immediatelly are subjected to genitalia mutilation or circumsizion a practice started by Queen Victoria after death of her husband and a procedure that benefits only industry that sells those skins (forhead) and nobody can argue against because babies don’t have lawyers or they can’t speak though they crie a lot after experience that pain and they will have to live with that discomfort for the rest of their lives, so i argue that Brazil is a better place for boys just for the fact they are not subjected to mutilation of their precious genitalia, that is one point the second Brazil is also better place for boys because they are not forced to get RITALIN or a form of crystal meth,so the schools there don’t make millions of future drug addicts like happens in USA (there are millions of kids on RITALIN right now) .
    So Brazil is not so bad after all as many people would think,certainly not for boys.
    But overall i believe his biological father should have custody of him, it is his right because his mother is gone.

    Comment by boanerges | June 9, 2009 | Reply

  3. Grace, I enjoyed reading your article. I feel the same way; couldn’t let it go.
    Keep writing and enlightening people along the way, so as not to have people like the gentleman above (Boanerges) making misguided comments.
    Whether is better for young boys to live in Brazil or in the US, the truth of the matter is that it’s absolutely irrelevant in Sean’s case. He needs to be with his real and only father, who’s alive and well and has been denied – in the most cruel and unjust way possible – his natural right to be a father: to love, nurture, raise and educate his son. And just for the sake of the argument…yes, the father happens to live in New Jersey and double yes, it’s safer, healthier and two times better than living in a “fake bubble” around favelas, promiscuidade and narcotrafico.
    Sorry blogger, I got carried away. Reason no 1)of your list…:)

    Comment by Flavia C. | June 10, 2009 | Reply

    • Why misguided??
      Telling the truth is being misguided???
      This kid is having lots of fun in RIO de JANEIRO , bringing him to New Jersey the only fan he will have it will at school if he fits in, or he could hate school then he will be in for trouble.
      Lady let me misguide you , first of all you don’t understand your own country then you also don’t understand Brazil, do me a favor google suicide rates of young boys in USA then compare to Brazil, if your country is so good for young boys why so many suicides tell me i want your guided explanation i can tell why will take 500 pages..
      I can write a book comparing the two countries USA is country for Seniors like you and that empty nester above Brazil is a country of very young people, it is just demographic if USA is a pyramid related to age from older to young then Brazil is an inverted pyramid with seniors at the bottom and young at top, in that country(BRAZIL) is very good for young people and USA is very good country for seniors it is just a FACT i am not misguiding anybody, ignorance is a bliss to a certain point then become STUPIDITY like in the case of you guys SENIOR CITIZENS with no caring at all for the good of this young boy, you guys don’t care about the boy and care only for the father what i feel sympathy but in the end BRAZIL is a better place for him now then when he graduates from HIGH SCHOOL he will certainly come to USA because here are the best UNIVERSITIES in the WORLD and New Jersey has PRINCETON RUTGERS etc.. and the chances of him getting better job certainly are in the USA.
      I lived in RIO those people there are one the happiest people i ever met, i am asking you and the empty nester ARE YOU GUYS HAPPY ????? I believe even people of favela are happier than you guys.Am i wrong??????Read newspaper get out of your bubble and your are going to discover New Jersey , The STAR LEDGER is good start excellent newspaper i read it everyday i know what is going on in New Jersey i don’t want spoil the surprise about safety and narcotraffic?????? DENIAL????

      Comment by boanerges | June 11, 2009 | Reply

      • Obviously you dont have any children, I dont understand how anyone can condone kidnapping! This case is so simple a child was stolen from his father, give hime back. The whole world is watching this case…a lot of ill will towards the Brazilian government has been generated, and as a citizen you should be outraged.

        Comment by a canadian mother | June 13, 2009

    • Flavia, I can understand patriotism and defense of one’s country. The criticism your country receives through this issue is due to raw favoritism of a citizen above and beyond any consideration for international law and in total denial of the rights of a biological non-citizen parent. I’m sure many millions of children are happy in Brazil (as in the U.S.) and many are unhappy due to poverty and hunger (also true in the U.S.) but that does not justify the denial of a fathers basic rights to love and raise his son. I hope you experience the joy of fatherhood and that you never experience the pain of having your child taken away from you. May God bless Brasil and the U.S. – Joe H

      Comment by Joe H. | July 11, 2009 | Reply

  4. Flavia, I am pretty happy and I live here in the USA!

    I think you are generalizing too much. There are troubled kids in Brazil and there are healthy and happy kids in America. There are all kinds of stories. I am positive that Sean can have a pretty good life with his father. David seems like a very dedicated and patient man. Sean will go to school, play sports and travel with his Dad. He will go to NY for fun and to the beach. He can ski in the winter. He can visit Brazil and stay with his grandparents. He will have the best of both worlds!

    Comment by Grace Farrell | June 11, 2009 | Reply

  5. I agree with Boanerges. Anyone who has kids can deeply relate to David Goldman’s pain.

    You gotta have a heart of stone not too.

    Comment by Grace Farrell | June 24, 2009 | Reply

  6. Grace, your awareness and ability to articulate the realities of this matter are very profound. I say that as a man that has lost (100% estranged) both his daughters now ages 19 & 24 for over 10 yrs – right here in the good old USA (Littleton, CO). The pain, the damage, the sadness and hurt are profound – how the public is so complacent and the courts so willing to support this awesome abuse to children is unreal.

    Yet you are able to perceive and appreciate the roles of many of the characters in this “real life play”. Such as the entwined narcissistic engagement of the grand parents in the process and the absurdity (near insane) process of people placing this young child squarely in the line of fire of major psychological abuse by adults absorbed in their own ego driven objectives.

    I do commend you for your effort, your caring and utter awareness of the damage to the child that is caused. David at this point is just a man / dad / father simply seeking to be a parent to his child – I pray for him as I have prayed for my children. Who may well be lost to me forever, a tear in my heart (and theirs) that will never heal.

    My God continue to bless you the power, strength, wisdom, persistence and compassion you have demonstrated to date. TOM – loving father of Robin and Christine

    Comment by Tom S. Littleton CO | June 26, 2009 | Reply

  7. No one is that much unjustified…there is always two sides of the story. TIME will TELL…

    Comment by Marta | January 11, 2010 | Reply

    • Yes Marta, time will tell that Sean will be in a much healthier environment, without the crass class system and emotional manipulation from those who supposedly “loved” him. Sean wil grow up to be a fine young man with his father’s advice and sane love.

      Comment by Brasilmagic | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  8. Sean estará muito melhor em New Jersey doque aqui no Brasil, onde os ricos e poderosos dominam o país e, os três poderes estão a serviço desta classe, tráfico de influência, partido político interferindo em casos de famílias, isto é vergonhoso; o garoto foi sequestrado pela mãe com a conivência dos seus pais. Se Sean ficasse no Brasil se tornaria com certeza um “play-boy”, porque dá para imaginar que esta família rica, poderosa e influente não tem nenhuma condição moral para educar uma criança. Eles possuem muito dinheiro, mas não entende nada de psicologia infantil; eles não tem sentimentos, não são capazes de se colocarem no lugar do pai verdadeiro de Sean para sentir o quanto ele estava sofrendo. Eles só preocupavam com o dinheiro e com a felicidade deles e da sua filha ensandecida.
    Agora eles estão provando do seu próprio veneno. O David deve sim, cobrar os quinhentos mil dólares que ele gastou com os processos que ele foi obrigado a abrir, tanto nos Estados Unidos, quanto no Brasil, ele não pediu para entrar nesta briga. Aqueles que acham que ele só queria dinheiro, devem pagar e não reclamar, não foram eles que começaram a guerra? David somente teve que se defender ou eles acreditavam que David ia desistir do filho, que ele ia logo constituir outra família, se enganaram, isto demonstra que eles não o conheciam bem, o americano vagabundo, e tudo mais o que disseram dele, este americano sem dinheiro foi capaz de derrotar os golias.
    Agora eles estão estupefatos, pois, perceberam que o pai de Sean moveu céus e terra, para conseguir o filho de volta, ele jamais ia desistir.
    O mais revoltante é que estes criminosos não pagarão pelos seus crimes; claro rico aqui no Brasil não vai para a cadeia. Cadeia existe somente para os pobres.
    Sean tem um pai paciente, amoroso, que ama a natureza, culto, viajou para vários países, tem bom gosto e é lindo, Sean deve se orgulhar muito dele; tenho certeza que ele saberá passar ao seu filho tudo de bom que a vida lhe ensinou.
    Se a família brasileira não gosta de David porque ele não tem tanto dinheiro quanto eles. Um dia eles poderão se surpreender porque o David pode escrever um livro sobre a sua históra, fazer um filme e até se tornar o ator principal desta história verdadeira, que foi capaz de comover o mundo inteiro, então ele terá tanto dinheiro quanto as família brasileiras.

    Comment by Helena | March 6, 2010 | Reply

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    Comment by Hva er forbrukslån | September 23, 2014 | Reply

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