By Editorial Staff
Published January 5, 2001
“For $1 Million You Get Me Off Your Back,” Dr. James Pendergraft Said To A Top Marion County Official.
By Pedro Ruz Gutierrez of The Sentinel Staff
OCALA — Nearly three years ago, Dr. James Pendergraft telephoned the chairman of the Marion County Commission and offered to relocate his proposed abortion clinic.
But at a price.
For $500,000, the Orlando abortion physician promised to stay away from Ocala for three years. For $750,000 he would vanish for five years. But for $1 million he would pledge never to come back. He repeated the proposition three times.
“I can tell you, this is no extortion. It’s a business deal,” Pendergraft said during a 1998 phone call played for jurors Thursday in the doctor’s federal trial on extortion conspiracy and other charges. “No doubt about it, you’ll never hear from me again.”
To Pendergraft, the suggested fees represented the cost of the $195,000 clinic building on Pine Street, his investment in the property and the loss of future income there.
“It’s not the building you’re getting rid of. For $1 million you get me off your back,” the doctor said.
The conversation was one of several Pendergraft and Orlando real-estate adviser Michael Spielvogel had with County Commission Chairman Larry Cretul between October 1997 and April 1998 after the chairman sent Pendergraft a letter asking him to reconsider plans for his Ocala clinic. Cretul called in the FBI, which recorded a number of calls and launched an investigation.
Pendergraft, 43, and Spielvogel, 54, are charged with conspiracy, attempted extortion and mail fraud. Prosecutors say that during a March 1999 meeting with a county attorney, taped by the FBI, Pendergraft and Spielvogel said they would seek $100 million in damages unless the county settled a lawsuit over problems with hiring off-duty law-enforcement officers to guard the clinic.
Spielvogel faces additional charges of filing a false document and lying to the FBI about threats supposedly made as the clinic was about to open in 1998. Spielvogel alleged that Cretul said it was a matter of when, not if, the clinic would be firebombed. Pendergraft filed an affidavit supporting Spielvogel in 1999.
Both men contend they did nothing wrong. If convicted, prison sentences could total 30 years for Pendergraft, 40 years for Spielvogel.
Cretul, the U.S. government’s main witness, took the stand for about seven hours Thursday. But part of the time was spent listening to Pendergraft talk on tape about how much money he would lose if he didn’t open up in Ocala.
In a March 1998 call, Pendergraft said he was filling a “void” by coming to Ocala, where the last abortion clinic was firebombed in 1989, and he could make at least $1 million a year in the new facility.
He also tried to reassure Cretul that he would minimize publicity and not draw attention to the deal, which he said could be “written down in a lawyer’s contract” to make it “the least public as possible.”
In a second conversation in April 1998, Cretul inquired about the method of payment. “Did you have something in mind? A check? All at one time? A brown paper bag?”
“No. That doesn’t look good,” said Pendergraft before starting to laugh. “I have my own reputation to keep up and that’s not doing dirty work.”
Pendergraft suggested there was mounting pressure to either establish the clinic or give up the project because of growing opposition from Ocala church leaders
Under questioning by defense lawyers, Cretul discussed his opposition to abortion.
“I am pro-life with exceptions such as incest, rape and dangers to the mother,” he told Dan Brodersen, a former assistant U.S. attorney serving as Spielvogel’s lawyer.
The county chairman also admitted lying under the direction of an FBI agent when he canceled a face-to-face meeting with Spielvogel.
The chairman, a Navy veteran and homebuilder by profession, testified he saw nothing wrong in having the county commission write a letter to Pendergraft asking that he reconsider opening up in Ocala.
“It was the appropriate thing to ask that Dr. Pendergraft reconsider,” Cretul said under questioning by Jacob Rose, a Pendergraft attorney. At the time, Pendergraft had received about 20 negative letters from church leaders and other anti-abortion activists.
One of the pastors writing to Pendergraft in 1997 was the Rev. Ed Johnson of Ocala’s First Baptist Church, which Cretul attends. The chairman said he was not aware of a letter Johnson wrote Pendergraft, but he did see anti-clinic literature from other groups.
Some of those complaints arrived at the County Commission, which discussed the proposed clinic during a meeting in October 1997. At the urging of a citizen who spoke up, Cretul testified, the commission voted 5-0 to draft and send the letter.
Much of the testimony until now has centered on what Spielvogel and Cretul discussed in their initial, unrecorded conversation in 1997, during which both allege threats were made. Cretul testified Wednesday that it was Spielvogel who made inflammatory remarks.
The chairman’s handwritten notes of that call were questioned Thursday by Brodersen, who asked why had he not jotted down the threats.
“I couldn’t write as fast as Michael was talking,” Cretul said.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
$49.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
$12.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the free Study Guide!
Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?
This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.
Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.
The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?
As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).
Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.
Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!
Running Time: 195 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“…a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
$17.95 — 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.)