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John Travolta Extortion Case: RETRIAL

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NASSAU, Bahamas — The Bahamas lawmaker who caused a mistrial in the John Travolta extortion case has been ordered to appear before the judge to explain why he announced an acquittal before the jury had declared a verdict, officials said Thursday.

Picewell Forbes was summoned to explain his remarks in a televised speech to a political party that prompted the judge to dismiss jurors after a month of testimony, two court officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue.

Judge Anita Allen said she had no choice but to order a new trial because Forbes' remarks Wednesday night gave the appearance that information had been leaked from the jury room.

Travolta flew to the Bahamas to take the stand twice against former Bahamian Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater and a paramedic accused of trying to extort $25 million from him following his autistic son's death at the family home in Grand Bahama last January. Bridgewater resigned her Senate seat after she was charged.

Forbes, who the officials said was scheduled to appear before the judge Friday, did not respond to requests for comment.

Anthony McKinney, an attorney for the lawmaker, told a local radio his client was merely repeating a rumor that he heard moments before giving a speech at a convention of his Progressive Liberal Party – to which Bridgewater also belongs.

He said Forbes did not have time to verify the information before taking the podium and announcing: "We have some good news ... Pleasant Bridgewater is a free woman!", prompting cheers from the crowd.

McKinney said Forbes planned to apologize to the judge and he said there was nothing to suggest a juror contacted Forbes or any member of the opposition party's leadership.

It was unclear whether authorities were considering a criminal investigation into a possible jury leak. A police spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

Travolta's representatives said he will continue to cooperate with prosecutors.

"We are disappointed to hear about the alleged juror misconduct since we know that the Bahamian government, the court, the other jurors and John Travolta as the victim want to have this matter adjudicated through the judicial system," the Los Angeles-based publicity firm Rogers & Cowan said in a statement.

Bridgewater and paramedic Tarino Lightbourne were accused of threatening to release private information about the death of Travolta's 16-year-old son Jett.

The jury was about nine hours into its deliberations when Forbes' statement was broadcast.

The party later issued an apology. "The announcement was incorrect," the PLP said. "This was not intended to interfere with the administration of justice."

Prosecutors allege the defendants demanded $25 million to keep them from telling the news media that Travolta had signed a document releasing emergency responders from liability if the family refused an ambulance ride to the hospital for Jett.

Travolta said he signed the waiver because he initially wanted his son flown directly to Florida for treatment of his seizure. But he later changed his mind, and the document did not come into play.

Travolta testified Lightbourne threatened to sell stories to the media suggesting that the actor was at fault in his son's death.

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Associated Press writer Mike Melia in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

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