Pay or be blamed for son's death, Travolta told

Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:40pm EDT
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By Neil Hartnell

NASSAU (Reuters) - Actor John Travolta testified in a Bahamian extortion trial on Wednesday that he was told that unless he paid $25 million, stories would be sold to the news media implying his son's death was intentional and he was to blame.

Travolta said he was first told by longtime friend and employee Ronald Zupancic of the alleged threat and demand for money on January 16. That was two weeks after Travolta's son Jett, 16, died of a seizure disorder during a family vacation in the Bahamas.

It was unclear who relayed the alleged threat to Zupancic.

Former paramedic Tarino Lightbourne and former Bahamian Senator Pleasant Bridgewater, who is an attorney, are accused of conspiracy and attempting to extort money from Travolta by means of threats. Bridgewater is also accused of abetting extortion.

Travolta testified last week he tried frantically to save his son by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while another visitor at the resort helped with chest compressions and used a defibrillator on Jett, who had been found unresponsive on a bathroom floor.

Travolta said the suspected threat related to a liability release form, freeing medical personnel of any responsibility for his son's death. He said he signed it after paramedics were summoned to the family's vacation home at the Old Bahama Bay Resort on Grand Bahama Island.

Travolta testified previously he signed the form because he wanted to take his son to Florida for treatment rather than send him to a Bahamian hospital.

Watched in court by his actress wife, Kelly Preston, Travolta said he was told that if $25 million was not paid, the document would be sold to the news media and used to generate stories.   Continued...

<p>Actor John Travolta is pictured with his son Jett (L) in this undated photograph, released January 4, 2009. REUTERS/Courtesy of the Travolta family/Rogers &amp; Cowan/Handout</p>