Bahamas judge dismisses Travolta extortion case

Mon Sep 6, 2010 1:00pm EDT
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By Neil Hartnell

NASSAU (Reuters) - A judge in the Bahamas on Monday dismissed the charges against two people accused of trying to extort $25 million from John Travolta over his son's death after the Hollywood actor requested the case be dropped.

Senior Justice Jon Isaacs made the ruling after prosecutor Neil Braithwaite said he had been informed by Travolta that he and his family felt it was best to drop the highly-publicized case as it had caused them "unbelievable stress and pain".

Former member of the Bahamian Senate Pleasant Bridgewater and ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne had been accused of attempting to extort $25 million from Travolta following the death of his son, Jett, 16, from a seizure disorder in early January 2009 during a family vacation in the Bahamas.

The two accused were alleged to have threatened to pass to the media a document, signed by Travolta, which released Lightbourne and his colleagues from any liability for Jett's death after the actor decided to attempt to fly his son to Florida, rather than have him taken to hospital in Freeport.

In October last year, another Bahamian judge had ordered a retrial in the case after a local politician and party colleague of Bridgewater announced on local television and radio the accused had been cleared. He made the announcement before the jury in the trial had formally issued any verdict.

Last year's trial in the beach-fringed Atlantic tourism destination attracted intense media interest.

Travolta testified how he had tried frantically to save his son by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Attorneys for the accused raised no objection to the judge's dismissal of the charges, although Lightbourne himself told the court he would have preferred a not guilty verdict.

(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Sandra Maler)

<p>Actor John Travolta poses at the G'Day USA 2010 Los Angeles gala in Hollywood, California in this January 16, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>