Jury Set To Decide Travolta Extortion Case
First Published: October 21, 2009 8:50 AM EDT Credit: AP
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Lawyers for an ambulance driver and a former politician accused of trying to extort millions from John Travolta urged jurors Tuesday to clear their clients, accusing the actor’s attorneys of setting them up.
Lawyers for paramedic Tarino Lightbourne and former Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater, who have both pleaded not guilty, made the charge during their closing arguments. Prosecutors summed up their case Monday, and the nine-member jury is expected to start deliberations Wednesday.
Lightbourne’s lawyer, Carlson Shurland, maintained the paramedic was “cornered” and called him a “victim” of entrapment by Travolta’s attorneys. Lightbourne is accused of threatening to sell stories to the media about the death of Travolta’s 16-year-oldson, Jett, unless he was paid $25 million.
Defense attorneys have sought to show that Travolta wanted to buy a document he signed releasing emergency responders from liability if the family refused an ambulance for the youth, who died Jan. 2 after suffering a seizure.
Travolta testified during the trial that he signed the release form because he had hoped to fly his son to the U.S. for treatment. But police said the document never came into play because Jett was taken to a local hospital.
Shurland did not deny that Lightbourne, who police secretly taped negotiating with Travolta attorney Michael McDermott, tried to sell the document. But he denied it was extortion, describing it as a straightforward business transaction.
“Tarino had something to sell and everybody wanted to buy,” Shurland said. “If you had something to sell and they were willing to pay, you’d be a fool not to sell it. That’s what a free society is all about.”
Bridgewater’s attorney, Murrio Ducille, urged jurors in the socially conservative archipelago to “set my people free.” He has sought to portray Travolta’s lawyer as a “devious and cunning” outsider who had “evil in his heart.” Bridgewater is accused of negotiating with Travolta’s attorneys for Lightbourne and was also secretly taped by police.
“This was a joke to Mr. McDermott,” Ducille said. “He came to the Bahamas with the sole intent of setting up these persons.”
The defense presented only one witness last week, an emergency medical technician involved in attempts to save Jett. Defense attorneys had planned to call three other witnesses but said they were unavailable.
Travolta, who was not in court Tuesday, was called to testify by the prosecution. In describing his desperate attempts to save the life of Jett, he revealed publicly for the first time that his son was autistic.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.