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Man charged with extortion over Travolta case

Bahamian paramedic pleaded not guilty and was held without bail yesterday on charges he conspired to extort $25m (£18m) from John Travolta after the actor's son died in the Bahamas this month.

Bahamian police said last week they were investigating a complaint by Travolta of an extortion plot against him. Neither police nor prosecutors have elaborated on the nature of the scheme.

Prosecutors allege the paramedic, Tarino Lightbourne, 47, tried to extort Travolta by means of threats. They also charged him with forgery.

Magistrate Carolita Bethel adjourned his hearing until Wednesday, when a former senator, Pleasant Bridgewater, is due in court to face charges of conspiracy to extort and abetment in connection with the case.

Bridgewater was granted bail of $40,000 during the weekend and vowed to fight what she called "untrue and unfair" charges.

"How these innocent actions can be so misconstrued, so perversely twisted to mean something other than it was, is a mystery," she said in a statement over the weekend.

Bridgewater resigned her Senate seat, saying she did not want to bring undue pressure on her party, the opposition Progressive Liberal Party.

Jett Travolta, 16, was found unconscious on 2 January at his family's home in the Old Bahama Bay resort on Grand Bahama Island, where John Travolta's family and friends had gathered for the New Year holiday.

His father and paramedics tried to revive him. He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and later pronounced dead.

On the death certificate, Bahamian authorities listed "seizure disorder" as the cause of death.

The boy's body was cremated in the Bahamas and his ashes were returned to Florida, where Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, held a memorial service at their home near Ocala.