By Editorial Staff
Published July 17, 2002
By Henry Pierson Curtis and Amy Rippel, Sentinel Staff Writers
All but one of the convictions of Dr. James Pendergraft, who owns five Florida abortion clinics, were overturned Tuesday by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The doctor had been serving a 46-month prison sentence when he was released in February until the court ruled on his February 2001 conviction in what prosecutors say was a scheme to extort money from Marion County officials.
“Of course, he’s happy. He’s extremely happy,” Pendergraft’s spokeswoman, Marti Mackenzie, said late Tuesday.
The doctor was traveling out of state but spent most of the evening reading the court’s decision. He is considering various ways to recoup the money he spent defending himself, she said.
Pendergraft, 44, who owns two clinics in Orlando as well as others in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Ocala, still faces retrial on a single count of conspiracy to commit perjury.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Klindt said late Tuesday that no decision had been reached on how prosecutors will respond to the Atlanta appellate court’s order.
Options open to the U.S. Attorney’s Office include accepting the decision or asking the panel of three judges to review their own decision or ask for a full review by all 12 judges on the 11th Circuit.
The case dates to 1997, when Pendergraft bought a medical building in Ocala as part of his plans to expand his practice. The intended move was opposed by anti-abortion forces in Marion County, where the last abortion clinic had been destroyed in 1989 by an arsonist.
Pendergraft’s other clinics already had drawn repeated protests, including regular ones in Orlando on Virginia Avenue and Lucerne Terrace. He drew statewide attention in 1996 when city officials paid him $325,000 to settle a lawsuit over blocking one of those clinics from opening.
Seeking to avoid such controversy, Marion County commissioners asked the doctor not to come to Marion County. Pendergraft responded by having an associate, Michael Spielvogel, find out how much the county would be willing to pay to buy him out.
Marion officials went to the FBI claiming that Pendergraft was trying to make them “pay for peace.”
According to court papers, Spielvogel, 54, initially indicated the doctor might stay away if the county paid up to $500,000 for the building that had cost $200,000. But that price soared after a fatal bombing on Jan. 28, 1998, of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala.
That night, Spielvogel and a county official spoke by telephone. Spielvogel claimed afterward that the official threatened him with similar-but-worse violence in Ocala.
But the FBI was taping the conversation and knew he was lying. Pendergraft later said he was present when Spielvogel received the threatening phone call.
In March 1998, Pendergraft told Marion officials he would “stay away three years for $500,000, five years for $750,000, and forever for $1,000,000,” according to court papers.
In its finding Tuesday, the 11th Circuit threw out the extortion and mail-fraud charges, saying they were groundless and improperly lumped with a charge of conspiracy to commit perjury.
The court agreed that there was sufficient evidence to convict Pendergraft and Spielvogel for making up the story about being threatened the night of the Alabama bombing.
Pendergraft and Spielvogel face a new trial on that charge.
The court acquitted both men of attempted extortion and mail fraud.
On the final charges, the court upheld Spielvogel’s conviction for perjury and making a false report about the threatening phone call to the FBI. But the court ordered him resentenced on those charges.
The court criticized the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Deveraux, for using what some consider a racist phrase, “shucked and jived,” in his closing argument to describe testimony by Pendergraft, who is black.
“However, even if the phrase is not entirely of a racist character, it is not the sort of characterization that should be employed by an assistant United States attorney, whose interest is not that he `shall win a case, but that justice shall be done,’ “ the judges wrote, citing court decisions.
The abortion doctor had been sentenced to prison for attempted extortion and other charges.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!
“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l
Running Time: 40 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!
Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification
In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.
By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).
$7.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“Here I stand … I can do no other!”
With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.
The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.
Running time: 105 minutes
Special offer: Order 5 or more for $5 each.
Watch a clip from Martin Luther.
$9.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)