Emotional Stakes High for John Travolta at Extortion Trial

Emotional Stakes High for John Travolta at Extortion Trial
John Travolta
Kevork Djansezian/AP

updated 09/22/2009 at 02:00 PM EDT

originally published 09/22/2009 02:00PM

As a court in the Bahamas convened Tuesday morning in the extortion case involving the January death of John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston's 16-year-old son, Jett, the grieving father had to summon all his strength to attend.

A friend of the actor's tells PEOPLE that Travolta, 55, "had to dig deep" in order to return to the Bahamas and testify. "Going back was hard for him," says the friend. "The memories were too painful."


Still, says the friend, some good is expected to come out of the court proceedings. Referring to Travolta and Preston, the friend said, "This is something that has been hanging over their heads, so going and dealing with this matter will help them move on. This is going to be closure for them."

The prosecution alleges that paramedic Tarino Lightbourn – one of the first people to arrive on the scene on Jan. 2 when Jett Travolta suffered a seizure at his family's house in the Bahamas – and his attorney, former Bahamian Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater, conspired to extort $25 million from Travolta in return for not making public a document relating to Jett's treatment. The pair have pleaded not guilty.

On the witness stand Tuesday morning, Lightbourn's partner, paramedic Derrex Rolle, established, for the first time publicly, that Jett Travolta was unresponsive by the time the paramedics arrived and said "there was no sign of life" when they examined him.

"Jett was lying down on his back," Rolle testified. "And there was no sign of life. He was not responding. I checked him for carotid pulse. I checked ABC – air, breathing, circulation."

Asked by the prosecutor, "Was he breathing?," Rolle responded, "No, sir."

Reporting by STEVE HELLING and SIOBHAN MORRISSEY

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