Mistrial in John Travolta Bahamas extortion trial over Jett's death: Judge fears 'leaked' verdict

New York Daily News/October 22, 2009

The trial of two people accused of trying to extort $25 million from John Travolta ended in a mistrial yesterday after a Bahamian legislator mysteriously announced at a political convention that one of them was acquitted.

Supreme Court Justice Anita Allen declared a mistrial because it was suspected an unauthorized "communication" came from deliberating jurors.

Former Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater and ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne, who were accused of hatching an extortion scheme after the January death of Travolta's 16-year-old son, Jett, will be retried, Allen said.

Travolta said he was "upset" by how the month-long trial ended but vowed to "continue to cooperate fully with police."

The sudden and unexpected climax to the trial came after the jury had been deliberating eight hours.

Shortly after 10 p.m., Allen called the panel back and asked if more time was needed to reach a verdict. The jury said yes and resumed deliberations.

Just 10 minutes later, she stunned the court.

"We are concerned in the interest of justice that there has been a communication from the jury room," she said in announcing the mistrial.

That concern arose, she said, after it was learned that Picewell Forbes, a member of Parliament, told the Progressive Liberal Party Convention in Freeport, the Bahamas that Bridgewater had been acquitted. He made the announcement at 8 p.m.

Prosecutor Bernard Turner, who believed the jury was moving toward a conviction, still agreed with the decision, saying, "We didn't want to take the chance there was some kind of indiscretion."

Neither Bridgewater nor Lightbourne would comment last night.

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