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Judge gives psych evaluation thumbs-down

By Editorial Staff
Published October 12, 2000

By Rick Cundiff, Staff Wrier, Ocala Star Banner

OCALA — A psychological evaluation of Michael Spielvogel won’t be allowed into evidence at the extortion trial of Spielvogel and abortion clinic doctor James Scott Pendergraft.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary R. Jones ruled after a 2 1/2 -hour hearing Friday that the results of a psychological exam of Spielvogel, done by an expert hired by Spielvogel’s defense attorney Dan Brodersen, is not admissible.

For much of the hearing, Spielvogel sat quietly as forensic psychologist Glenn Caddy described him from the witness stand at various times as “self-aggrandizing,” “manipulative,” “obnoxious,” “ingratiating,” “narcissistic” and “paranoid.”

“Almost like the permanent puppy, seeking to get approval,” Caddy said of Spielvogel at one point. “Even as he’s sitting here listening to it, he doesn’t really understand it … It’s not psychotic thinking, but it’s always off-center.”

Federal prosecutors argued that Caddy’s evaluation of Spielvogel was not relevant because Spielvogel is not claiming he was insane and unable to tell right from wrong at the time of the alleged offense. Assistant U.S. Attorney Judy Hunt also argued that Caddy’s diagnosis of “Personality Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified” also was not a legitimate diagnosis to use in a diminished-capacity defense.

Under cross-examination by Hunt, Caddy readily acknowledged Spielvogel is not insane. Hunt also repeatedly questioned Caddy’s evaluation method, which included interviews with Spielvogel, his wife, Pendergraft and one other Spielvogel acquaintance. Hunt alleged that to allow Caddy’s report would be to allow hearsay evidence from those people, which would not be subject to cross-examination.

Pendergraft and Spielvogel were indicted in federal court on June 13. The five-count indictment alleges that the two men conspired to extort millions of dollars from Marion County government by making false and fraudulent statements in a civil lawsuit Pendergraft filed in December, 1998. U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges dismissed that suit last December.

The indictment alleges Pendergraft and Spielvogel lied in the civil suit by saying County Commissioner Larry Cretul threatened Spielvogel and Pendergraft’s local clinic, the Ocala Women’s Center. The indictment also alleges that Pendergraft and Spielvogel, through attorney Roy Lucas, threatened to bankrupt the county by asking for a $100 million judgment.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, lying under oath and mail fraud. Spielvogel faces additional charges of offering false testimony and making false statements to FBI investigators. Both men have pleaded not guilty. The case is scheduled to go to trial in October.

If convicted, Pendergraft faces up to 30 years in prison and $750,000 in fines, while Spielvogel could face up to 40 years and $1.25 million in fines.

Spielvogel left the courtroom briefly only once during the hearing. That was after Caddy spoke of the death of Spielvogel’s adult daughter in December 1998, and the impact her death had on Spielvogel’s state of mind.

Caddy said Tennessee police believed the woman committed suicide, while Spielvogel believes she was murdered. Her death occurred three months before the meeting at which Spielvogel and Pendergraft allegedly tried to extort money from the county.

Even Pendergraft had trouble dealing with Spielvogel, Caddy testified.

“Keeping Mr. Spielvogel under control was difficult, because he wouldn’t even follow instructions,” Caddy said. “In many respects, Mr. Spielvogel plays by his own drum, and it’s very difficult for other people to figure out what the tune is.”

Spielvogel left the courtroom without commenting when Friday’s hearing ended. Brodersen declined to comment. Pendergraft did not attend the hearing.

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