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Retrial in Travolta extortion case halted at actor's request

By the CNN Wire Staff
John Travolta, left, and wife Kelly Preston lost their son Jett after he suffered a seizure in January 2009.
John Travolta, left, and wife Kelly Preston lost their son Jett after he suffered a seizure in January 2009.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • John Travolta cites "emotional toll" in asking for retrial to be halted
  • Two people were accused of attempting to extort money
  • The case ended in mistrial last year
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(CNN) -- A retrial in the case of two people accused in the Bahamas of attempting to extort millions from John Travolta over the death of the actor's son was halted Monday just as it was about to get under way, according to the Bahamian attorney general's office.

The prosecutor in the case filed a motion for "nolle prosequi," asking for the trial not to proceed, the attorney general's office said.

A mistrial was declared last year after a not-guilty verdict was announced at a political rally while the jury was still deliberating.

Travolta issued a statement Monday saying he had requested the retrial not to proceed due to the emotional distress caused by the ordeal.

"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," Travolta's statement said. "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."

Paramedic Tarino Lightbourn and former Bahamian Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater were charged with trying to extort money from Travolta after his son died from a seizure on January 2, 2009.

The money allegedly was to be paid in return for not making public a document Travolta had signed, declining to have his 16-year-old son, Jett, transported to a nearby hospital. Travolta refused a demand for money.

The actor, who also is a pilot, said he signed the document because he initially wanted to fly his son to a Florida hospital instead.

Lightbourn and Bridgewater pleaded not guilty.

In the first trial, Travolta had testified that his son was found unresponsive by a nanny at home on the island of Grand Bahamas, where the family was spending the New Year's holiday.

Travolta said he initially told the ambulance driver to rush them to an airport where his private jet was parked. Travolta said he planned to fly his son to a West Palm Beach, Florida, hospital instead of driving him to one in nearby Freeport.

The actor testified that while he and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, were riding in the ambulance with their son, they decided to take the teen to the hospital, instead of flying to Florida.

At the hospital, Travolta was told his son "wasn't alive," he said.

During the ambulance ride, Lightbourn asked Travolta to sign a statement releasing the ambulance company from liability.

"I received a liability of release document. I signed it. I did not read it. Time was of the essence," Travolta testified.

Travolta testified that he later learned about a demand for $25 million.

If he didn't pay, "stories connected to that document would be sold to the press," the actor said.

"The stories would imply the death of my son was intentional and I was culpable somehow," he said.

 
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