By Editorial Staff
Published January 27, 2001
Tapes Did Not Confirm Testimony From The Doctor Charged With Attempted Extortion
By Frank Stanfield, Sentinel Correspondent
Pendergraft testified that he didn’t know his adviser, Michael Spielvogel, would be asking for money in the March 22, 1999, meeting. Spielvogel and Pendergraft face charges of conspiring to commit extortion, mail fraud and making false statements.
Prosecutors say the two demanded the $1 million from county officials in return for leaving the Ocala area. If convicted, Pendergraft and Spielvogel could face up to 30 years in prison.
Prosecutor Mark Deveraux grilled Pendergraft on page after page in a transcript of the March 22 meeting. Where did he talk about getting police protection and moving protesters away from his Pine Street clinic? There were no such references.
And what about a letter from his attorney to the county lawyer that mentioned huge judgments involving millions of dollars against other local governments by abortion clinics?
“I never thought anything about it,” the doctor said.
Less than 30 days earlier, the doctor said, he walked into his office and heard Spielvogel talking on the phone, supposedly with Marion County Commissioner Larry Crutel.
Spielvogel was holding the phone and repeating the words of the caller who said: “Alabama is nothing” compared with what would happen to the Ocala Women’s Center. A clinic in Birmingham had just been bombed.
This week, Spielvogel testified that he faked the whole phone conversation in an effort to keep the doctor from opening the clinic in Ocala.
Pendergraft said he could forgive Spielvogel, whose wife worked at one of his clinics, two of which are in Orlando. “I believe that up to this day he was legitimately afraid,” he said. “He was truly in fear of coming here.”
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