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John Travolta is the star witness at the extortion trial involving personal documents related to the emergency medical treatment of his son, Jett. Two people are accused of threatening the release of private information connected to Jett’s death unless paid $25 million. Travolta’s sixteen-year-old son suffered a massive seizure that ultimately proved fatal at the family’s vacation home on Grand Bahama Island on January 2, 2009. Tarino Lightbourne was among the paramedics who tried to revive Jett after he collapsed, and he also escorted the boy via ambulance to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Lightbourne and former Bahamian Senator Pleasant Bridgewater, who resigned from the Bahamian Senate as a result of the scandal, are charged with conspiracy to commit extortion. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Bahamian police say the alleged scheme involved a document related to the treatment of Jett. That document would have released emergency responders from liability if the family refused to transport Jett to the hospital; however, that did not happen and the document did not come into play. Travolta testified that he signed the release because he initially wanted his son taken to the airport and flown to Florida for medical care. While he did not discuss why Jett was taken to a local hospital instead, another witness testified that he tried to arrange the use of private planes to fly Jett off the island. Unfortunately, none were available on such short notice.
According to police, Bridgewater, an attorney for Lightbourne, contacted Travolta’s lawyer to attempt to sell the document to the actor for $25 million two weeks after Jett’s death. Not surprisingly, Travolta filed an extortion complaint shortly thereafter.
Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, have maintained a low profile since Jett’s death in January. However, Bahamian law dictates that he must testify in person, so Travolta’s appearance in court on Wednesday broke his silence. In fact, he skipped the publicity tour for his latest film, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. His testimony also marked his first public description of Jett as autistic, thus confirming widespread speculation.
It is surprising and remains unclear why the defendants allegedly believed Travolta would pay to keep the document secret. It was simply a release and became irrelevant once Jett was escorted to the hospital. As such, the fact that these individuals would think $25 million would be in the realm of possibility is shocking. Their attempt to capitalize on Travolta’s loss is disturbing, and it is an unfortunate display of human cruelty. Hopefully the trial will bring some closure to the family.
– Kat Kubis
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