Travolta trial may put light on Scientology

Associated Press/September 24, 200

Nassau, Bahamas - A jury was selected this week for a trial that could see John Travolta take the stand against two people accused of trying to extort $25 million from the movie star following his son's death in the Bahamas.

Travolta is on a list of 14 witnesses against the defendants - a former Bahamas senator and an ambulance driver - who allegedly threatened to release a document related to the treatment of his chronically ill son Jett.

His testimony would mark a break from the low profile that Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, have kept since their 16-year-old son died from a seizure at a family vacation home on Grand Bahama island on Jan. 2.

Travolta, 55, skipped the publicity tour this summer for his latest film, "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3." He posted a note on his personal Web site in June thanking his co-stars for their efforts to promote the picture, which gave the family additional time to grieve.

The nine-person jury is expected to begin hearing evidence Tuesday, but prosecutors declined to say when Travolta might take the stand or whether he is in the country.

Travolta's attorneys referred calls to his publicist, Paul Bloch, who said he would not comment on the actor's plans because "this is an ongoing criminal matter."

Former Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater and paramedic Tarino Lightbourne, who was among those who tried to revive Jett after he collapsed, have pleaded innocent to charges including conspiracy to commit extortion.

Before the start of jury selection, defense lawyers argued unsuccessfully for a delay, saying they needed more time to press prosecutors to hand over evidence.

A hearing is scheduled before another judge Wednesday on their request for materials that reportedly include recordings of the defendants' conversations with a lawyer for Travolta.

The pair allegedly threatened Travolta with a document that would have released emergency responders from liability if the family refused an ambulance. However, police said that did not happen in Jett's case. It is unclear why the pair allegedly believed Travolta would pay to keep the document from being released.

Both defendants have been free on bail.

Jett Travolta had a history of seizures and was found unconscious in a bathroom. A Bahamas undertaker said the death certificate listed seizure as the cause of death.

According to a report posted on, "The fact that Travolta and wife Kelly Preston have not previously recognized their son's autism has drawn criticism from many. Some have claimed that the Travoltas' longtime devotion to the Church of Scientology - which separates psychiatric conditions from medical conditions - has prevented them from being open about Jett's autism.

"A source close to the Travolta family said that Jett's autism "was more on the profound end of the autistic spectrum. He didn't have meaningful verbal communication skills, and required 24-hour supervision. The family didn't talk about it."

"The Church of Scientology has no position on autism," said Tommy Davis, a spokesperson from Scientology International. "As with any medical condition, the Church believes that these matters are best diagnosed and treated by a medial doctor. Scientologists can and do then also seek spiritual assistance."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.