Travolta Extortion Case Begins in the Bahamas

John Travolta reportedly in Bahamas to testify against paramedic who drove Jett.

Sept. 22, 2009 -- Nearly nine months after the tragic death of John Travolta's 16-year-old son Jett, the case of two people who allegedly attempted to extort $25 million from the actor is set to go to trial today in the Bahamas.

Travolta is expected to be the first witness, according to People magazine, which is reporting that the actor has already arrived in the Bahamas and is staying in an exclusive gated community west of Nassau.

It is believed to be Travolta's first visit to the country since Jett died on Jan. 2 after suffering a seizure at the family's vacation home on Grand Bahama Island, southeast of Florida.

Travolta's rep Paul Bloch would not confirm the report.

"Because this is an ongoing criminal matter, we're not going to comment on any portion of it at all," he told

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in New Providence Supreme Court before a nine-member jury empanelled Monday. Travolta is among the 14-person list of potential witnesses.

The actor's last minutes with his son were described by Tarino Lightbourne, the paramedic who drove them to the hospital.

"It was me, him and Jett," Lightbourne told ABC's "Good Morning America" on 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.'"

Within weeks, authorities arrested the man who provided that touching description. Lightbourne was charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy to extort.

Bahamas Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater was also arrested and charged with conspiracy to extort.

Each has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail. Bridgewater later resigned from her office.

The extortion charges involve the pair's alleged plan to release a document if Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, did not pay them $25 million.

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.

But police said no such document was ever signed in this case.

Will John Travolta Testify?

It is unclear when or if Travolta would arrive in the Bahamas.

"Because this is an ongoing criminal matter, we wouldn't be able to comment on anything related to this case," said Paul Bloch, Travolta's publicist.

But outside the courthouse on Monday, Bridgewater's attorney told APTV that without Travolta, there is no case.

"He has to be here, he has to come and give evidence," said Murrio Ducille. "Without him, the prosecution cannot get off the ground, because he is the complainant."

While lead prosecutor Bernard Turner and his senior counsel are expected to begin to lay out their case today, Lightbourne must wait until Wednesday for a hearing in a separate matter.

His defense attorneys have asked the court to order the prosecution to turn over documents, including the autopsy report, the statement from Travolta's nanny and phone records, which they say they have not yet received, despite repeated written requests.

Defense counsel Carlson Shurland had already expressed his concerns about the fairness of his client's trial, earlier in the year.

"Our anxiety has to do with all of the adverse publicity that this case has been getting," said Shurland in a February interview with The Freeport News. "In light of all of that publicity we doubt seriously that we will be able to find an impartial jury in The Bahamas simply because everybody has an opinion."

The Travoltas Keep a Low Profile

One party that has shied away from all publicity until recently is the Travolta family.

John Travolta did not join his co-stars over the summer in promoting "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3." Actor Denzel Washington told "Good Morning America" in June that his co-star was still in a "tough situation."

Travolta posted a message to his colleagues on his Web site at the time: "Their unselfish efforts have allowed my family the additional time to reconcile our loss."

And last month, Preston decided to pull out of the October women's conference hosted by California first lady Maria Shriver, where she was to host a session on grief and resilience.

In a statement to People magazine, Preston explained her withdrawal: "I am sorry, but I truly believed that I could do it. Otherwise I never would have said that I could. But I am still deeply in the process of healing, and it's just too soon."

The family's first public appearance was only two weeks ago when the couple and daughter Ella attended Disney's D23 Expo to promote their upcoming film "Old Dogs."

Travolta and Preston are not the first celebrity targets of alleged extortion plots. Rob Lowe, Bill Cosby, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, basketball great Michael Jordan, model Elle Macpherson, singer Celine Dion's husband Rene Angelil and the late Michael Jackson have all been the target of alleged schemes to extract thousands or millions of dollars, though none of these cases involved the death of a child.

The Bahamas courthouse where the trial is scheduled is no stranger to high-profile cases. Almost three years ago, it was the scene for the official inquest after the death of Daniel Smith, the son of the late Anna Nicole Smith.