John Travolta, Kelly Preston

AP Photo/Kris Ingraham

In what will no doubt go down as the second most difficult day of his year, John Travolta took the stand this morning in the trial of two Bahamians allegedly involved in a $25 million extortion plot against his family.

A grim Travolta and Kelly Preston arrived at a Bahamian courthouse this morning escorted by a fleet of security.

The actor took the stand and immediately began revisiting the moments before his 16-year-old son Jett's death on Jan. 2.

Jett's nanny awakened Travolta and Preston at roughly 10:15 a.m., the actor said, informing them that Jett was unconscious in his bathroom.

"He was pounding on the door upstairs where we were sleeping. I ran downstairs with my wife to help my son," Travolta recalled, adding that when he got to him, one of the boy's caretakers was already performing chest compressions.

The actor quickly jumped into action and began administering CPR to his son, whom he also acknowledged on the stand suffered not only from Kawasaki disease, but from autism as well.

"Jeff, the other nanny, was doing some compressions," he said. "I was doing the breathing.

"I took the place of the woman who was doing CPR. She was an employee of Old Bahama Bay who I recognized as such."

After a brief lunch break, Travolta returned to the stand and for the first time admitted that the long-time speculation was true about his son's condition.

"He was autistic," he said. "He suffered from a seizure disorder."

Travolta said his son suffered seizures every five to 10 days and that each seizure lasted around 45 seconds. Jett would usually sleep for 12 hours after an episode.

Travolta did not get much further in his testimony: An objection was raised and the court recessed. It's clear what spurred on the objection but Travolta is expected to return to the stand today.

Opening arguments kicked off yesterday, with the Bahamian chief prosecutor wasting no time getting to the heart of the matter.

"Contact was made with certain persons to communicate a threat to John Travolta," Bernard Turner said, referring to codefendants Pleasant Bridgewater, a former senator, and Tarino Lightbourne, an ambulance driver, who together are alleged to have attempted to extort $25 million from the grieving star.

At the root of the case is a refusal-to-transport document: The trial's first witness, police inspector Andrew Wells, said Travolta requested that Jett be taken directly to the airport rather than the hospital—the reasoning likely being that he could just as quickly get his son medical treatment in the U.S. as on the island—and signed a release form stating just that.

In the end, Jett was taken directly to the hospital after all. It's unclear what accounted for the change in decision or why the threat of publication of the signed document seemed like a good bargaining chip for the alleged extortionists.

The second witness to take the stand yesterday, paramedic Derrex Rolle, testified that Jett was already unresponsive when the emergency services arrived at the actor's vacation home.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

(Originally published Sept. 23, 2009, at 8:51 a.m. PT)


Take a look back at the life of Jett Travolta.

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