In his first interview since about reunited with his father in 2009 after a five-year international dispute, Sean Goldman remembered being confused and having mixed feelings about returning to the United States.
Goldman, now 11, was abducted in 2004 when his Brazilian-born mother took him from their New Jersey home on what was supposed to be a two-week vacation to her native country. She abruptly cut ties with his biological father, David Goldman, divorcing him and marrying a lawyer from a prominent Brazilian family while keeping Sean in Brazil.
When Sean was 8, his mother died from complications after childbirth, and his Brazilian stepfather moved to adopt him. David Goldman fought for the return of his son, triggering an international case that made headlines and lasted until Sean was reunited with him on Christmas Eve in 2009. Sean spent half of his life in Brazil before rejoining his father to live at his home in Tinton Falls, N.J.
Sean spoke with NBC’s Meredith Vieira about his feelings during the ordeal and its aftermath in an interview that will air on Dateline’ on Friday at 10 p.m. ET.
“I wasn’t angry, but I was confused,’’ he said. “Because where’s my dad?’’
While David was working tirelessly to bring his son home, Sean had no idea how badly his father wanted him back. He never questioned his mother or grandmother about why his biological father was no longer in their lives and why they never returned to America.
“I was scared to ask,’’ he said.
While trying to make sense of the custody battle at such a young age, Goldman buried his emotions.
“I didn’t want to be like a loner, so I had to kind of tuck the feelings away and try to live with the…situation,’’ he said.
It took President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton getting involved to move the case to Brazilian federal court from the local courts. The higher court ultimately awarded his biological father custody after years of legal wrangling in which his Brazilian family fought international treaties and court rulings in United States courts that upheld David’s rights to his biological son.
On Christmas Eve in 2009, Sean left Rio de Janeiro to board a plane chartered by NBC to Orlando with his father. As they made their way to the plane, the 8-year-old was besieged by cameras from all angles as he cried in the street. His Brazilian family deliberately paraded him in front of the media in protest of the court order that returned him to David Goldman’s custody.
“(I remember) getting dragged through streets full of cameramen — a lot of people pushing,” he told Vieira. “And hearing a lot of yelling and people calling my name. I just wanted to shoot through everybody.’’
He admitted having “mixed feelings’’ about wanting to leave Brazil, but once he boarded the plane, he just wanted it all to be over.
Sean’s Brazilian grandmother is still fighting to see him and claims that David Goldman is denying her access to Sean and therefore violating his human rights. But David Goldman says she can see her grandson anytime she wants if she will agree to a few basic conditions, including dropping her lawsuits in Brazil that are still appealing the decision to send Sean home.
“I remember going into the plane and my dad was looking around and waving,’’ Sean said. “I just told him to hurry up because I wanted to get in the plane and just…come back to America.’’
The bond with his father has come a long way since he first returned to the United States. He initially would not call his father “Dad,’’ but in the two-plus years since the two were reunited, they have forged a true father-son relationship. He agreed that his father is now his “best buddy.’’
“Other dads might just be a dad, but he’s more than a dad,’’ he said.
Meredith Vieira’s interview with Sean Goldman on Dateline airs at 10 p.m. ET Friday on NBC, and tune in to TODAY Friday morning for a live interview with Sean Goldman’s father, David Goldman.
According to People, when Efron was ask what happened to his hand he said, “A fan bit me,” he said, smiling, according to U.K. reports.
Calls to the actor’s rep for further explanation about his injury weren’t immediately returned.
Still, Efron’s “war” wound didn’t stop him from wrapping the injured digits around toothsome costar Taylor Schilling or posing with fans. After all, they seemed more than happy to get a second of his time – rather than a bite of his hand.
In a twist of irony, a West Virginia woman is trying to collect money from a collection agency. Diana Mey, of Wheeling, W. Va., won the largest judgment ever against an abusive debt collection company — more than $10 million.
“I’m a mom, and I’m a housewife, and I’m an accidental activist,” Mey said.
From her small-town home base in Wheeling, Mey went after a debt collection empire that hounds people nationwide and won. But she still hasn’t received any money.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever collect a dime, but if I can get their operation shut down, that would make me very happy.”
Watch the full story on “Nightline” TONIGHT at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT
It all started two years ago when a debt collector with a company called Reliant Financial Associates, or RFA, left a message implying that her house was in jeopardy if she didn’t pay a debt. The message stated:
“I’m calling in regards to a preliminary asset liability investigation. They are in the process of serving some court documents in regards to case 29369… They have some information now pending questions at the property,…
Springdale Avenue, in Wheeling, West Virginia. It is in your best interests to contact the department. You are required to contact 866-764-9779.
Diana Mey, of Wheeling, W. Va., won the largest judgment ever against an abusive debt collection company — more than 10 million dollars. But she is still waiting to collect damages.
It is illegal for debt collectors to make empty threats about serving people with a lawsuit or seizing their home. And it was especially galling to Mey, who says she is debt-free.
“They threatened to take legal action against our property and it wasn’t even our debt,” Mey said.
Millions of Americans are victims of this kind of mistaken debtor identity, partly because of a new breed of collectors called “debt buyers.” They purchase old debts for pennies that the original creditors have given up on and then try to collect them for a big profit. Critics say debt buyers sometimes use outrageous tactics to get the money where others have failed. RFA is a debt buyer.
Mey wrote RFA a cease and desist letter, telling the company not to contact her anymore, and sent it certified mail. Postal records show exactly when RFA signed for it. Precisely 23 minutes later, Mey started getting mysterious hang-up calls that showed up on her caller ID as coming from her local county government.
“So I called the number back and it was the sheriff’s department. And I asked if someone there was trying to reach me. And they said, no – nobody there was trying to reach me,” Mey said.
After two days of hang-up calls from that sheriff’s department number, Mey picked up another one with that same caller ID. The man on the line repeatedly called her a vulgar name for the female anatomy. He described violent sexual acts he would like to subject her to and asked if she liked to be “gang banged.”
“I was so frightened. I felt violated, but then I realized, you know, I’m taping this call,.” Mey said. “I pulled myself together and I thought, I can get through this. Just keep on talking buddy because we’re gonna get plenty of your voice on tape.”
The verbal assault went on for nearly two minutes before the man hung up.
Mey said she immediately called 911 to report that someone had threatened to sexually assault her. She says she was terrified because she believed the call was from a local number. Mey said she then bolted the door and got her husband’s gun out of the dresser and hung it on the bedpost in her bedroom.