No charges for MP over mistrial in Travolta extortion case

NASSAU, Bahamas, October 30, 2009 – Bahamian MP Picewell Forbes will not face any contempt of court charges for causing a mistrial in the John Travolta extortion trial last week; in essence, because a High Court judge felt that he had suffered enough.

He got the break when he appeared in court yesterday before Justice Anita Allen, who had declared the mistrial on October 21st.

She was contemplating whether Forbes should be slapped with a hefty fine or imprisonment for announcing that night, even while the jury on the case was still deliberating, that one of the accused – former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Pleasant Bridgewater – had been acquitted.

In the end, Justice Allen decided that she would not place any more burden on his shoulders.

“You have been severely condemned and rightly ridiculed across this nation and the world and I believe you have suffered greatly,” the judge told him. “I find that you have purged your contempt and I am satisfied that you have been sufficiently punished. I will temper justice with mercy.”

However, she did not allow Forbes to go without further reprimanding him, telling him that he had cast a cloud of suspicion over all nine jurors hearing the matter.

“Your actions show a dangerous lack of appreciation on your part of the need to uphold and protect the sanctity and integrity of our system of justice,” Justice Allen said.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure that the dispensation of justice is fair, transparent and uncompromised. By your conduct on that fateful evening, you failed in this responsibility and I send this clarion warning to you and other members of society – that the course of justice must not be either deliberately or unintentionally interfered with for any purpose and in any circumstances whatever.”

The judge decided to stop the five-week Travolta extortion trial after Forbes announced Bridgewater’s “acquittal” at a televised PLP annual convention. She said she had no choice because of concerns about leaks from the jury room.

Forbes issued a public apology for his actions on Tuesday, but Justice Allen asked him to repeat it in court yesterday.

After he did and the judge allowed him to go free, a relieved Forbes thanked her for accepting his apology.
“I am pleased and satisfied with the outcome,” he said in a statement issued after the judge’s decision. “My life will continue from here on to be informed by these events.”

No date has been set for a new trial for Bridgewater and paramedic Tarino Lightbourne who are accused of attempting to extort $25 million from Travolta, following the January 2nd death of the actor’s autistic son, Jett, who suffered a seizure at the Old Bahama Bay Resort where the family was vacationing.

It is alleged that they threatened to give the media a document Travolta had signed, releasing ambulance personnel from any liability for the 16-year-old’s death after the actor decided to try to fly him to Florida for treatment rather than have him taken to a local hospital.