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Sep 6, 2010 9:41 PM by Alison Haynes

Bahamas drops charges in Travolta extortion case

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) - A judge in the Bahamas dismissed charges
Monday against two people accused of trying to extort money from
John Travolta after the actor decided he no longer wanted to face
the pain of a new trial stemming from the death of his teenage son
on the island chain.
Prosecutor Neil Braithwaite had submitted a motion to drop the
case just as a retrial was about to start for the two defendants.
"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," Braithwaite told the court after a jury had been
picked to hear the case.
Ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne and his attorney, politician
Pleasant Bridgewater, were accused of threatening to release
private information about the January 2009 death of Travolta's
16-year-old son, Jett, at the family vacation home in Grand Bahama.
Lightbourne, who was among the medics who treated Jett,
allegedly sought $25 million from the actor with the assistance of
Bridgewater, who resigned her seat in the Bahamas Senate after she
was charged in the case.
A judge declared a mistrial in October after a Bahamian lawmaker
suggested the still-deliberating jury had acquitted one of the
suspects.
Travolta had testified during that trial - describing how he
desperately tried to save the life of his seizure-prone son - and
his attorneys said in October that he was prepared to return to the
stand if necessary. But the actor said Monday that the passage of
time had changed his mind.
"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 writteodstatement. "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."
Travolta thanked Bahamian authorities for their work on the case
and said his cooperation had come at "great emotional cost to my
family."
The defendants had mixed reactions to the dismissal. Bridgewater
was relieved. "I'm just happy to be free and put this all behind
me," she said outside court.
She later called the case against her the "greatest nightmare
of my life" and said it forced her to resign to focus on her
defense.
"I must add that I am deeply saddened that the Travoltas had to
endure the pain at the loss of their son," Bridgewater said. "It
is my prayer that they will be able to bring closure to this sad
chapter in their lives and open a brand new one, filled with joy
and peace."
But Lightbourne said he wanted a trial to prove his innocence.
"I'm not totally satisfied," he said. "I wanted to have my name
cleared.
Jett Travolta suffered a seizure and collapsed at the family's
home. The actor testified that he performed CPR on the teen after a
nanny alerted him and his wife, actress Kelly Preston. John
Travolta told the court - apparently for the first time in public -
that his 16-year-old son was autistic, confirming speculation that
had swirled for years. The developmental disorder is frequently
accompanied by seizures.
Travolta testified that Lightbourne, one of the paramedics who
responded to the home on Grand Bahama island, threatened to sell
stories to the news media suggesting the movie star was at fault in
Jett's death.
If he did not pay $25 million, Travolta told the jury,
Lightbourne indicated he would use against him a consent document
that the actor initially signed refusing to have his son taken to a
local hospital. The document cleared Lightbourne of any liability.
The actor testified that he signed the document because, after
waiting about 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, he intially
wanted his son flown to Florida for treatment. In the end, he was
taken to a Bahamian hospital.

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