NASSAU, Bahamas – Prosecutors said Tuesday that a paramedic who treated John Travolta's son shortly before he died in the Bahamas threatened to release private information unless the movie star paid $25 million.
Travolta was among those expected to take the stand during the trial, but he was not in the courtroom as prosecutors began presenting evidence in the capital of this island chain off the Florida coast.
"Contact was made with certain persons to communicate a threat to John Travolta," said Bernard Turner, chief prosecutor in the Bahamas, in his opening argument.
Ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne and former Bahamas senator Pleasant Bridgewater, a co-defendant who allegedly acted as an intermediary, have pleaded innocent to extortion charges.
Defense lawyers had not yet presented opening arguments.
Police say the alleged scheme involved a document related to the treatment of Jett Travolta, a chronically ill teenager who died Jan. 2 following a seizure at a family vacation home on Grand Bahama island. It would have released emergency responders from liability if the family refused an ambulance but police said that did not happen.
The first trial witness, police inspector Andrew Wells, testified that after 16-year-old Jett was loaded into an ambulance, Lightbourne told him that Travolta wanted his son taken directly to the local airport instead of the hospital. Wells said that Travolta signed a release form.
It was unclear why Jett Travolta was not taken to the airport and why the defendants allegedly believed the actor would pay to keep it secret.
Travolta, who has kept a low profile since his son's death, is on a list of 14 witnesses who could be called to testify. Prosecutors have not said when the actor might take the stand. The other potential witnesses include lawyers for Travolta as well as five police inspectors and detectives.
A jury of six women and three men was seated in the Supreme Court case Monday.