RIO DE JANEIRO – A New Jersey man and his 9-year-old son were reunited Thursday in Brazil after a five-year international custody battle, and immediately headed home to spend the holidays in the U.S.
"It is now time for our new beginning, the rebirth of our family at such a special time of the year," Goldman wrote in a letter that was read to reporters by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith after the father and son's plane took off.
Smith said Goldman and his son left on a private jet chartered by the U.S. news channel NBC, which took off shortly before noon.
"Today the abduction has ended," Smith said.
Sean's arrival at the U.S. Consulate earlier Thursday was tumultuous, with his Brazilian relatives passing on U.S. officials' offer to use a secured entrance to a garage. Instead they parked a block away and walked the boy, wearing a Brazilian Olympics T-shirt, through scores of reporters, cameramen and security guards. Violent shoving broke out in front of the consulate's doors as the boy was spirited inside.
"I was disappointed to see him paraded through the streets," Smith said.
Once inside the consulate, however, Smith said the boy calmed down, ate a hamburger and talked with his father about basketball and how much snow there might be in New Jersey.
"Once he was with his dad they were smiling, with their arms around one another," Smith said. "They looked just like best buddies."
Goldman, of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, fought a long battle against one of Rio's best known legal families to regain custody of his son.
Sean had lived in Brazil since Goldman's ex-wife, Bruna Bianchi, brought him to her native country for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation in 2004. She stayed, divorced Goldman and remarried, and Goldman began legal efforts to get Sean back.
After Bianchi died last year in childbirth, her husband, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, a prominent divorce attorney, continued the legal fight and won temporary custody.
His maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, was in tears as she walked toward the consulate and said simply: "This is a very difficult moment."
Later, she told ABC's "Good Morning America" that Sean was "very sad" and didn't want to leave.
"He has the right to speak and to explain himself, but the judge here cut his right," Bianchi said.
On Tuesday, Brazil's Supreme Court chief justice upheld a lower court's ruling that ordered Sean returned to Goldman. The Brazilian family said Wednesday it was ending its legal battles to retain custody, and a federal court ordered Sean delivered to the U.S. Consulate Thursday morning.
Goldman said this week that if he won, he would let the Brazilian family visit.
But now, he said, it's time for Sean's U.S. relatives to get to know the boy.
"Please know that my love and the rest of Sean's family's love for him knows no boundaries," he wrote in his letter. "We will go to the ends of the Earth to protect him and shower him with every ounce of love that we have."