John Travolta Extortion Case Dismissed By Judge

Actor said he can't bear to testify again in trial linked to son Jett's death.

September 29, 2009, 7:33 AM

Sept. 6, 2010— -- A judge in the Bahamas dismissed charges Monday against two people accused of trying to extort money from John Travolta. Officials said the actor no longer wanted to face the pain of a new trial stemming from the death of his teenage son.

"The Travolta family has said that this matter has caused them unbelievable stress and pain and they wish to put this whole thing behind them," Prosecutor Neil Braithwaite told the court after a jury had been picked to hear the case.

"The long-pending status of this matter continued to take a heavy emotional toll on my family, causing us to conclude that it was finally time to put this matter behind us," the actor said in a written statement. "Therefore, after much reflection I concluded that it was in my family's best interest for me not to voluntarily return to The Bahamas to testify a second time at trial."

Back in October, a Bahamian judge declared a mistrial in the case of two people accused of trying to extort $25 million from Travolta's family. The judge had said he suspected juror misconduct after a local politician said in a speech played on radio and TV that former Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater had been acquitted.

In the trail, John Travolta testified that the Bahamian medic accused of trying to blackmail him was allegedly threatening to say that Travolta was at fault in his son Jett's death.

The actor was called back to the stand to confirm that on Jan. 16, 2009, two weeks after Jett died, he had been notified by his bodyguard and his attorney that someone was demanding $25 million and, if it wasn't paid, a document Travolta signed to refuse transporting Jett to a local hospital would be "sold to the press."

Showing no emotion, Travolta told the court in Nassau that paramedic Tarino Lightbourne allegedly threatened that the leaked document would result in "stories that would imply that the death of my son was intentional … that I was culpable in some way."

On cross-examination, Travolta admitted that he was never called or threatened personally by either of the defendants -- Lightbourne or Bridgewater, who is also charged with blackmailing Travolta.

The case against the pair has always alleged that the threats were made through Travolta's bodyguards and attorney.

The prosecution had showed a hidden-camera video with incriminating evidence against Lightbourne and Bridgewater.

The video captured Lightbourne, negotiating with Travolta's lawyer, Michael McDermott, for a payoff to keep do-not-transfer documents signed by Travolta confidential,. Near the end of the 44-minute tape, the pair settled on a price of $15 million.

"Case closed. Case closed," Lightbourne said in the video. "Once this is closed, it's buried deeper than the Titanic."

The alleged extortion did not stay buried for long, however, as Travolta's bodyguard of 23 years said during the trial that he learned of the extortion attempt and was the one to tell Travolta. Travolta took the two defendants to trial earlier this month.

The paperwork they allegedly threatened to release is a "refusal to transport," which someone would sign when refusing emergency medical services, thereby releasing first responders from liability.

The do-not-transfer documents were signed by Travolta, meaning he wanted son Jett, 16, taken to Florida for treatment. But the actor later changed his mind and accompanied Jett to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A police report claimed Bridgewater burned her copy of the key medical record in the case, using a candle to ignite the document, and flushed the ashes down the toilet after she got nervous the "incident was about to explode."

Travolta Takes the Stand

Travolta took the stand to detail his actions on the night of his son's death.

"I ran downstairs with my wife to help my son," Travolta said, according to The Associated Press.

In his testimony, he said he and Preston were awakened by a nanny around 10:15 a.m. Jan. 2, the day of Jett's death. Travolta said that when he went downstairs, another caretaker was doing chest compressions, and he began administering breathing help.

The testimony was apparently the first time Travolta had talked publicly about his son's autism. He had said in the past that Jett suffered from Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels.

Lightbourne rode with Travolta and his son in Jett's last moments.

"It was me, him and Jett," Lightbourne told ABC's "Good Morning America" Jan. 5. "I'll never forget this day. I saw him lean over and hug his son and kiss his son and tell him he loved him and I did everything I could. I saw love in his eyes, I saw love. [Travolta] hugged him, put his arm around him, kissed him on the forehead and the cheek and told him he loved him. He then turned to me and gave me a hug and said, 'You guys did a wonderful job.'"

Both Lightbourne and Bridgewater had faced up to 10 years or more in prison.

ABC News' Mary Rose Abraham and Lee Ferran contributed to this report.

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