Bahamas Blog International
Travolta Extortion Trial Bahamas: Opposition Senate Leader Allyson Maynard-Gibson called Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham on alleged extortion plot
Related to country: Bahamas
By JUAN MCCARTNEY ~ Guardian Senior Reporter ~ email@example.com:
Opposition Senate Leader Allyson Maynard-Gibson testified yesterday that she informed Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, then Attorney General Michael Barnett and Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Marvin Dames of an alleged extortion plot by former Senator Pleasant Bridgewater and ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne, two days after she met with Bridgewater in Grand Bahama on January 15.
Maynard-Gibson, who is American actor John Travolta's Bahamian attorney, testified that during that January 15 meeting Bridgewater told her that her client, Tarino Lightbourne, who is now her co-defendant in the attempted extortion trial, "has nothing much to lose and that he had in his possession a document that he felt was detrimental to Mr. Travolta, and he wanted to give him the first option to purchase that document" [for $25 million].
Lightbourne was the driver of the ambulance that took Travolta's 16-year-old son Jett to the Rand Memorial Hospital after he suffered a seizure at Travolta's Old Bahama Bay vacation home on January 2. Jett was pronounced dead at the hospital that same day.
At the heart of the prosecution's case is the medical form Travolta admitted to signing during his testimony last week.
That form releases medical personnel who attend to patients in their care of any liability should they not be taken to the Rand Memorial Hospital.
Maynard-Gibson said Bridgewater told her that Lightbourne had said the document "indicated that either Mr. Travolta wanted his son dead, or that he was negligent in looking after his autistic son or that he was negligent in wanting his son transferred to West Palm Beach instead of Rand Memorial Hospital for treatment."
That meeting was the result of a call Maynard-Gibson said she placed to Bridgewater on January 14 as a result of a conversation she had with Clement Maynard III, her partner in the law firm Gibson and Co.
She said that after she spoke to Bridgewater on January 14, she flew to Grand Bahama the next day where Bridgewater picked her up from the airport.
She said that Bridgewater then drove to her office, where they conducted that meeting.
"After pleasantries we spoke. She knew what I was there for," Maynard-Gibson said.
According to Maynard-Gibson, Bridgewater said Lightbourne had already been talking to several international media organizations about the document in his possession and it "could belong to Travolta or it could belong to the world."
"[Lightbourne] had been in contact with a lady from the U.S. media who said it might be beneficial to him if he could show that Travolta was negligent," said Maynard-Gibson, adding that Lightbourne indicated that he would get back to the lady.
Maynard-Gibson also testified that Bridgewater told her that Inside Edition, Greta Van Susteren, Larry King Live, Time Magazine and someone from the U.K. media had been in touch with Lightbourne.
According to the testimony, Bridgewater told Maynard-Gibson that the international media organizations wanted to know if what Lightbourne had was a document or a photograph so that they could assess the value.
Maynard-Gibson testified that Bridgewater told her that Lightbourne said that his assessment of the document was that it was valued at $25 million. And he was "sure that Mr. Travolta did not want his name tarnished in the media."
Maynard-Gibson, a former attorney general, said that Bridgewater also said that, "she had warned her client that what he was doing was wrong and that it would be detrimental to the country."
Maynard-Gibson said Bridgewater told her that Lightbourne said he had been suspended from his job for 30 days for talking to the international media.
According to the testimony, Bridgewater then showed Maynard-Gibson a copy of a refusal to transfer form that Travolta had signed, along with copies of two dispatch reports from the Rand.
Maynard-Gibson said Bridgewater indicated that Lightbourne had the original.
According to the senator, Bridgewater also said that she did not have her client's consent to give her (Maynard-Gibson) a copy of the form, but that since she was her colleague, she would give her a copy as long as she promised not to give it to Travolta.
Maynard-Gibson said that she told Bridgewater that she would not give the form to Travolta but would show it to him or his attorney Michael McDermott.
She said Bridgewater then drove her back to the airport.
During that ride, she said that Bridgewater told her that it was "important that she get back to her by Tuesday, January 20, as that was the deadline for (Lightbourne) to get back to the media."
"I said I would speak with my client as quickly as I could," Maynard-Gibson testified.
Maynard-Gibson said that when she returned to New Providence she put the copy of the refusal to transfer document in the safe at her office and gave McDermott a full briefing of everything that had happened with Bridgewater.
Maynard-Gibson added that on January 17 she had a meeting at her law chambers with the partners in her firm as well as McDermott and another of Travolta's U.S. attorneys.
"I briefed them about what had happened and showed them the documents," she testified. "I advised them that an offense might have been committed."
Maynard-Gibson said she then called the prime minister, the attorney general and the police to inform them about the matter.
On January 18, Maynard-Gibson said she again met with partners in her firm and Travolta's American lawyers.
Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Marvin Dames and Assistant Superintendent of Police Ricardo Taylor were also present, she said.
Maynard-Gibson said that during that meeting she gave the police the copy of the document that she had been given.
Later that day, in another meeting with Maynard III, two other attorneys, Dames and Taylor, she said she consented to having any conversations with Bridgewater tape-recorded.
She said that she called Bridgewater on the phone that afternoon and the police recorded that conversation.
During cross examination, Bridgewater's attorney Murrio Ducille asked Maynard-Gibson if she recalled at any point during the January 15 meeting Bridgewater saying that she did not want to be a part of anything that smacks of criminality.
Maynard-Gibson said that she could not recall Bridgewater saying that.
Ducille then asked if Maynard-Gibson recalled telling Bridgewater during that meeting that she knew her to be a person of integrity.
She said that she did not recall telling Bridgewater that.
She also said that she did not recall Bridgewater telling her that she had no stake in the outcome of the matter.
However, Maynard-Gibson conceded that Bridgewater never personally asked for any money nor issued any personal threats to John Travolta.
Maynard-Gibson is expected to continue her testimony this morning. The tape recording of her conversation with Bridgewater is expected to be played at some point during the trial.
September 30, 2009
Travolta Extortion Trial Bahamas: Senator Pleasant Bridgewater in police undercover sting operation>>>
Travolta Extortion Trial Bahamas: Obie Wilchcombe testifies>>>
John Travolta testifies at Bahamas extortion trial>>>
|September 30, 2009 | 9:40 AM
Travolta Extortion Trial Bahamas: Senator Pleasant Bridgewater in police undercover sting operation
Related to country: Bahamas
By JUAN MCCARTNEY, Guardian Senior Reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org:
A Royal Bahamas Police Force detective yesterday testified that he was part of a team of officers who set up an undercover sting operation at the Sheraton Resort on Cable Beach earlier this year in order to make audio and video recordings of former Senator Pleasant Bridgewater's conversations with Michael McDermott, an attorney for American actor John Travolta.
Bridgewater and ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne are accused of conspiring and attempting to extort $25 million from Travolta after his 16-year-old son Jett Travolta died at the Old Bahama Bay Resort on January 2.
Despite the presence of an elaborate display of audio/visual equipment, and entering the physical tapes of those recordings into evidence in court yesterday, the contents were not played.
The Nassau Guardian understands that the tapes will be played in court today.
Detective Inspector Sean Saunders yesterday told the court that he and another officer (Assistant Superintendent of Police Detective Ricardo Taylor) went to room 328 at the Sheraton on Sunday, January 18, to record a telephone conversation between McDermott and a "lady...identifying herself as Pleasant".
He had a tape of that alleged conversation in court yesterday.
Saunders said that on Monday, January 19, just before 8 a.m., he and Taylor returned to the room with a Constable 1492 Strachan, to speak with McDermott.
"As a result, I configured a transmitter with concealed cameras and microphones to the room," said Saunders, adding that McDermott gave the officers permission to record the conversations that day and the day before.
Saunders said that after gaining McDermott's permission, they then fitted the attorney with a "body wire" which would effectively capture all audio in his vicinity.
Saunders said that the police then went to room 326 (which was right next to room 328) and set up a receiving station where they could monitor what happened in the other room.
He said that around 10:20 a.m. McDermott left the room and returned about five minutes later with a lady.
"The lady I saw on the monitor was Ms. Pleasant Bridgewater," Saunders told the court.
When asked how he knew that the person in the room was Bridgewater, Saunders said that he had served off and on as Sergeant-at-Arms in the House of Assembly from 1998 to 2005, and had seen Bridgewater there repeatedly.
Bridgewater served as the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Member of Parliament for Marco City from 2002 to 2007.
He also said that he knew Bridgewater as a public figure from television and other media. He then pointed her out in court.
The tapes and Saunders' testimony elicited several objections from defense attorneys yesterday, even though Senior Justice Anita Allen ruled on Friday that the tapes were admissible as evidence.
The information about the tapes came to light yesterday afternoon, following the testimony of longtime Travolta employee Robert Zupancic yesterday morning.
Zupancic, who said he has worked for Travolta for 23 years, told the court that between January 13 and January 16 McDermott told him that he had been negotiating with Bridgewater about a payout to one of her clients in order to suppress a document that could be "incriminating" to Travolta.
"(McDermott) told me that he'd been contacted by an attorney from The Bahamas named Pleasant Bridgewater, and that she had a client who was the first to arrive on the scene January 2 and that he attended to Jett and that he was the ambulance driver," said Zupancic, who added that McDermott told him Bridgewater said that her client also, "had a document that he contended was incriminating to John Travolta and that they were going to release that to the international media if we didn't pay them $25 million."
He said McDermott also told him that Bridgewater and the ambulance driver "had a made-up story to go" along with the document.
Zupancic said that on January 16, he repeated everything exactly as McDermott told him back to Travolta.
Zupancic did not indicate what Travolta said, but he did say that he responded to the news.
Under cross-examination by Bridgewater's attorney, Murrio Ducille, Zupancic acknowledged that he did not give his police statement until three months after his conversation with McDermott in January. He also admitted that he did not write down the conversation between himself and McDermott at the time.
"I normally wouldn't write down that someone wants $25 million from someone," Zupancic said. "I wouldn't want anyone to read that."
Zupancic claimed that he was the "go between" for McDermott and Travolta, although he did "put them on the telephone prior to any action."
He also admitted that he did not include that information in his police statement.
Krysta Smith also represents Bridgewater. Carlson Shurland and Mary Bain represent Lightbourne. Chief prosecutor Bernard Turner, Garvin Gaskin and Neil Braithwaite are prosecuting the case.
September 29, 2009
Travolta Extortion Trial Bahamas: Obie Wilchcombe testifies>>>
John Travolta testifies at Bahamas extortion trial>>>
|September 29, 2009 | 10:50 AM
Travolta Extortion Trial Bahamas: Obie Wilchcombe testifies
Related to country: Bahamas
By NATARIO McKENZIE:
Tribune Staff Reporter -
WEST END and Bimini MP Obie Wilchcombe testified yesterday that more than a week after Jett Travolta’s death he was shown two documents by former Senator Pleasant Bridgewater which were supposedly harmful to the Travoltas.
Mr Wilchcombe, who was the first witness to take the stand yesterday in the attempted extortion case against Bridgewater and former ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne, said he met with Bridgewater at his office at Universal Distributors headquarters in Freeport, Grand Bahama, on January 12. He and Bridgewater are partners in the company.
According to Mr Wilchcombe, Bridgewater told him she had a client who had a document that could be harmful to the Travoltas.
“Knowing all that we did to protect the image of the country and knowing my relationship with the Travoltas, she thought she would bring it to my attention,” Mr Wilchcombe said.
“She showed me two documents. I saw the name Rand Memorial Hospital. I saw the name John Travolta. I said this is bulls…” Mr Wilchcombe told the court.
Mr Wilchcombe said he asked Bridgewater who her client was, but she told him she could not disclose that information.
“I told her she should tell her client to jump off a roof and kill himself,” Mr Wilchcombe said.
Mr Wilchcombe said he phoned Mark Smith, the Travolta family’s doctor, then phoned Michael Ossi, lead attorney for the Travoltas. Mr Wilchcombe told the court that following that conversation, he received a phone call from another attorney for the Travoltas. Mr Wilchcombe said he took the call in the reception area, spoke to the attorney, then called Bridgewater to the telephone before returning to his office. During cross-examination by Bridgewater’s attorney Murrio Ducille, Mr Wilchcombe admitted that Bridgewater had not instructed him to call anyone and had come to him because she was concerned about the documents she had in her possession.
According to Mr Wilchcombe, Bridgewater said she did not want any harm to come to the Travoltas and had never told him that he was to be an agent to extract money from John Travolta based on the documents she had in her possession.
During cross-examination by Lightbourne’s attorney Carlson Shurland, Mr Wilchcombe admitted he had been arrested in connection with the extortion attempt and that he had told a local newspaper that he thought the ordeal was a conspiracy against him. Mr Wilchcombe also admitted that Bridgewater had never told him that her client was seeking to extract money from Mr Travolta.
Attorney Michael Ossi testified yesterday that he spoke with Mr Wilchcombe by telephone around 5.30 pm on January 12 and following that conversation he phone Michael McDermott, another attorney for the Travoltas. Mr Ossi also told the court that on Saturday, January 17, he had a meeting with attorneys Allyson Maynard Gibson, Damian Gomez, Michael McDermott, Howard Butler and Michael Hamilton at the firm of Gibson and Co.
The case resumes on Monday at 10.30. Mrs Maynard-Gibson and Mr McDermott are expected to take the stand next week. Bridgewater, a former PLP senator, and Lightbourne, a former ambulance driver, are accused of attempting to extort $25 million from Hollywood celebrity John Travolta.
Prosecutors have called six witnesses, including Mr Travolta who took the stand on Wednesday. Mr Travolta is expected to be recalled next week. Bridgewater, 49, and Lightbourne, 47, are accused of conspiring to extort and attempting to extort money from Mr Travolta between January 2 and 20 by means of threats. Bridgewater is also accused of abetment to extort.
September 26, 2009
John Travolta testifies at Bahamas extortion trial>>>
|September 28, 2009 | 7:16 AM
Formula for determining dues of UN Member States needs reform – Bahamas
The Bahamas called today for the United Nations to overhaul the scale of assessments that determines how much each Member State must pay to fund the running of the Organization, saying the current system is based on an unjust formula that punishes some countries.
T. Brent Symonette, Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas, told the General Assembly’s high-level segment that the per capita gross national income (GNI) should not be given too much weight when determining the formula to be used for the period between 2010 and 2012.
The 192-member Assembly is in the process of devising the formula for dues-paying for that period for both the regular expenses of the UN and for the Organization’s peacekeeping operations worldwide.
Placing too much emphasis on per capita GNI leads to distortions, Mr. Symonette said, particularly concerning the payment of dues for peacekeeping operations.
“The current scale places the Bahamas, a small island developing State, in the same category as the most developed economies of the world, with the exception of the permanent members of the Security Council,” he said.
“This unjust formula creates an onerous burden and we call upon this body to address this inequity, which seriously undermines the development objectives of the Bahamas and other developing countries.
Mr. Symonette stressed that the GNI criterion did not accurately reflect the vulnerability of the Bahamian economy, “or the extraordinary costs associated with the duplication of infrastructure required because of our archipelagic configuration.”
The Deputy Prime Minister said his country had never wavered from its responsibilities as a member of the international community and would continue to meet its obligations to the UN in the manner prescribed and agreed.
“While my Government is committed to paying its assessed contributions, in full and in a timely manner, we believe that the proposed scale of assessments is unfairly and unduly burdensome for countries such as the Bahamas and should therefore be reconsidered and adjusted, taking into account those considerations that reflect our vulnerabilities.”
25 September 2009
|September 27, 2009 | 12:01 PM
Petit-Goave note book
Related to country: Haiti
By Jean H Charles:
Haiti has ten major cities besides Port au Prince, the capital. Four of them have a quality of life that makes them an oasis in a desert where good governance is as scarce as water in the Sahara. We can count amongst them St Marc with its deep port from where most of the succulent Haitian coffee departs for Europe during colonial times and long after.
Petionville, small Vail, Colorado-like without the snow, with its mountain villas perched all over the cliffs providing view and sun a go-go. She also has a no-nonsense woman mayor who fights against all odds to keep the city in fine shape.
Jacmel, much talked about lately, is a quaint city where the proud population labor to take charge of their city with or without support from the government. Yet, as in Iphigenia borrowing a gasp from King Agamemnon, “I see that there are acts that will set the city on a course that will one day bring it to its end.”… And there is Petit Goave, a magnificent surprise!
I visited Petit Goave recently during its fiesta season. As previously reported in several columns, the best time to visit and enjoy Haiti and its towns and cities is during the fiesta of each city. The calendar of saints in Haiti is a serious and an important itinerary for businessmen and entrepreneurs who may travel from town to town with carousel and entertainment for young and old.
I was in Cape Haitian around the 15th of August, the day of our Lady of Assumption, a major feast in the Catholic Christendom liturgy. It is also a major feast day for all the main cities of Haiti. Except it is business as usual in the major towns like Port au Prince and Cape Haitian. We have the same culture in the United States where the feast days are blasé except in New York City where St Patrick brings all Ireland and the rest of the country to Manhattan on March 17.
So I flew to Port au Prince, to be closer to Petit Goave, located two hours from the capital. I chose public transportation for the pilgrimage. Following Christ’s advice to his disciples, I took only my toothbrush with me, hoping to receive shelter and a pillow from the revelers. I was not disappointed.
The trip was most pleasant, a magnificent vista that invites the drivers to forget that the road can also kill. My eyes were wide open to admire the sea on one side and the mountain on the other. My fellow travelers, because maybe of my gray hair, were very courteous. I was offered a seat by a young lad who told me: “Come grandparent, take mine.” This honorable title is often used to greet a person of advanced age in Haiti. I suspect it is the same term grandparent in English, which is converted in Creole with different meaning.
I eavesdropped on their conversation – food and goods bought in the Dominican Republic to resale in Haiti – the high cost of housing -- the worry to find enough money to send the children back to school in September… I arrived safely in Grand Goave with the bus continuing its trip further south.
I hopped into a taxi-Moto to bring me into the center of the town. I asked my driver to drop me at the church, richly decorated with the revelers in white and blue, the vista inside the church was comforting and soothing. Everybody was in their best Sunday dress, piously praying for that major favor that will change their lives.
I gauged, through the attendance, that Petit Goave has a rich, stable, and pleasant middle class. I felt good; it seems as though the social and political trauma that has shaken Haiti in the last fifty years has spared Petit Goave. The procession after the church service was cathartic. It passed through well-lit streets, beautiful well-designed homes to end into the courtyard of the town hospital. I asked some nuns around me whether they ran the hospital. They told me it was government managed. What a surprise -- a well-run public hospital administered by the government in Petit Goave!
It was now 10 pm, time for serious party. I set myself to find the best party in town. My first foray ends up nowhere. The taxi-Moto drove far and deep into the night to bring me around two nightclubs. The music was loud and inviting, but there was no one inside. I was told that people party late; I should wait a little bit more. I knew better, I took another Moto ride into town and found the real party led by a popular band:
New Look. I enjoyed the time and was taken in for the remaining of the night by a hospitable family.
The next day, the day of the feast, I went to church again. What a divine vista! The bishop of Nippes, surrounded by some thirty priests concelebrated the mass. In his homily he urged the revelers to stop playing the guinea game of trusting no one. He also urged them to convert from the game of the fish who saved a man from drowning in the middle of the sea to bring him right back when the man thanked the fish for saving his life.
I was invited to enjoy the banquet with the priests, the bishop and the officials of the town, mingling with these men of God with whom I could observe the gracefulness of some and the not so gracefulness of others.
I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting Petit Goave, its magnificent public square, and its carenage that can become the home for multinational hotels. I stopped by the Relay de l’Empereur, a rambling house that now serves as a hotel. It was the private home of Emperor Faustin Soulouque, a former comical and despot ruler of Haiti.
Petit Goave is working; it is neat, large with enough room to accommodate more people. I was told that CRS – Catholic Relief Services -- has adopted the city. What a relief! I came back to Port au Prince, satisfied, happy and hopeful that Haiti can be rebuilt starting with Petit Goave. It has all the ingredients to leverage existing resources and make it a first success story in the recovery or the renaissance of Haiti. I shall remember when I have more say in the fate of that country.
September 26, 2009
|September 26, 2009 | 12:54 PM
america american bahamas bahamian bahamians caribbean crime crisis cuba cuban development economic economy global government health history ict4d individualeconomy international investment obama people political revolution social war washington world