The actor signed a document at the center of the extortion case without reading it because "time was of the essence"

By Steve Helling
September 23, 2009 04:55 PM
Credit: SDFL/Splash News Online

In calm testimony Wednesday, John Travolta described in Bahamian court how he helped a nanny perform CPR on his 16-year-old son Jett, who died earlier this year.

“Jeff [Kathrein], the other nanny, was doing some compressions. I was doing the breathing,” said the actor, whose son was in the downstairs bedroom of their condo in Old Bahamas Bay.

In the extortion trial that started this week, the prosecution alleges that paramedic Tarino Lightbourn – 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, conspired to extort $25 million from Travolta in return for not making public a document relating to Jett’s treatment. The pair have pleaded not guilty.

Travolta’s Testimony

The actor stood before the court during his testimony, which is standard practice in the British system. At times he leaned forward on a podium when he spoke. He testified that his son had a history of seizures and – for the first time – publicly said that his son suffered from autism.

“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.”

On the morning of his son’s death, Travolta said he was awakened by nanny Eli Wheaton. “He was pounding on the door upstairs where we were sleeping,” said the actor, who then quickly ran downstairs to find people already trying to save his son.

“I took the place of the woman who was doing CPR. She was an employee of Old Bahama Bay who I recognized as such,” he said.

Efforts to Save Jett

After a brief recess, Travolta continued his testimony Wednesday on efforts to save his son. “We continued the CPR and my wife was holding my son’s head at this point,” he said, wiping his head as he spoke.”

A defibrillator was used until paramedics arrived about 40 minutes later, he said. Jett was then put on a gurney. “I spoke with the ambulance driver and asked him if he would take us to the airport,” Travolta said. The ambulance driver then gave him a document for release of liability and he signed it.

When the judge asked Travolta if he read the document before signing, the actor said he did not. “Because time was of the essence,” he noted.

Travolta arrived hand-in-hand with his wife Kelly Preston in the courtroom Wednesday, soft-spoken and calm during his testimony. Both were described as “graceful” by a courtroom observer, who added that the couple did not get teary-eyed.

Case Against Paramedic and Attorney

On Tuesday morning, prosecutors made their opening statement to the nine-member jury. The first trial witness, police inspector Andrew Wells, testified that after Jett was placed in an ambulance that day, Lightbourn said that Travolta wanted his son taken directly to the airport instead of to a hospital.

Wells testified that Travolta signed a form that released the paramedics from liability for not transporting the patient to a hospital.

At some point that morning, the decision was made to take Jett to the hospital. Nonetheless, prosecutors allege that Lightbourn and Bridgewater threatened to release private information – including the signed release form – unless Travolta paid them $25 million.