A Bahamian jury acquits a paramedic and lawyer of trying to blackmail the actor after his son's death

By Siobhan Morrissey
Updated October 20, 2009 02:00 PM
Kevork Djansezian/AP

Almost a month after the John Travolta extortion trial began, the jury returned with a verdict Tuesday, finding a paramedic and his attorney not guilty of conspiring to extort $25 million from the actor after his son, Jett, died last January.

An electric hush fell over the mint-green courtroom #2 in Nassau, Bahamas’ Supreme Court as the foreman rose to read the verdict.

In the extortion trial that started Sept. 22, the prosecution alleged that paramedic Tarino Lightbourn, 48 – one of the first people to arrive on the scene last Jan. 2 when Jett Travolta died after suffering a seizure at his family’s house – and his attorney, former Bahamian Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater, 50, conspired to extort $25 million from Travolta in return for not making public a document relating to Jett’s treatment.

The trial’s emotional high point occurred Sept. 23, when Travolta, 55, stood before the court and testified about helping a nanny perform CPR on his 16-year-old son.

“My son was autistic and he suffered from seizure disorder every 5 to 10 days,” Travolta told the court. “He would suffer a seizure that would last 45 seconds to a minute and sleep for 12 hours.”

Despite the not guilty verdict, the case might not be over. Travolta may seek to have the case retried in an U.S. court, says Travolta’s lawyer Michael Ossi, who adds that the first call concerning the extortion was placed from the Bahamas to Florida.

Travolta’s attorneys have already been securing the evidence in the case for a possible trial in Florida, where Travolta lives with his wife, actress Kelly Preston, and their nine-year-old daughter Ella Bleu.

“We have been in contact with the Feds to discuss jurisdictional issues, extradition issues, so all options remain open,” says Ossi, who was a witness in the extortion trial. “Eventually there will be justice. This is only round one.”

Still, even if Travolta eventually prevails in court, the verdict won’t bring back Jett or end his family’s grieving. “They think about Jett everyday and all day,” says longtime Travolta friend Ronnie Zupancic. “It doesn’t wear off. Jett is still with him. He is still in their hearts and souls, but there is a hole. It’s like it was yesterday.

“They recognize as a family the fragility of life and they hold each other a little tighter.”