By Editorial Staff
Published January 3, 2001
By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA — With abortion-rights supporters picketing outside the courthouse and abortion opponents picketing his clinic two blocks away, the federal extortion trial of Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV began Tuesday.
Jury selection concluded Tuesday afternoon and Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges set opening statements for 9 a.m. today.
Pendergraft and his associate, Michael Spielvogel, were indicted in Pendergraft and his associate, Michael 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 lawsuit Pendergraft filed in December 1998. Hodges dismissed the lawsuit a year later because Pendergraft and attorney Roy Lucas failed to pursue it.
The indictment alleges Pendergraft and Spielvogel lied in the lawsuit by saying County Commissioner Larry Cretul threatened Spielvogel and the clinic. The indictment also alleges that Pendergraft and Spielvogel threatened, through Lucas, 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. 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.
Carrying signs reading “Stop the Injustice” and “Keep Abortion Legal,” several protesters marched outside the federal courthouse on Northwest Second Street as the trial began. At the same time, abortion foes marched outside Pendergraft’s Ocala Women’s Center at 108 N.W. Pine Ave., carrying signs that read “Abortion Kills Children” and “Ocala’s Auschwicz.”
About a dozen of Pendergraft’s supporters, nearly all from out of town, sat in the courtroom, which remained calm throughout the day. Pendergraft operates four other women’s clinics in Florida.
From an initial pool of three dozen, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on a dozen jurors by 3:15 p.m. Two alternate jurors came from another pool of nine people.
The jury, including alternates, has nine women and five men.
Pendergraft’s attorneys, Larry Colleton and Jacob Rose, and Spielvogel’s attorney, Daniel Brodersen, had asked Hodges for permission to question prospective jurors individually, rather than as a group, about their views on abortion. Hodges rejected the request in December
He asked the prospective jurors to raise their hands if they had strong convictions about abortion or if they had ever participated in any organization or group that took a stand on either side of the abortion issue.
Hodges then questioned individually the jurors who raised their hands about whether they would be able to render an impartial verdict.
By the time Hodges recessed the court for lunch, Pendergraft’s supporters were flying a large balloon over the Ocala Women’s Center. At a press conference there, Pendergraft’s lawyers and supporters portrayed the case as a vindictive prosecution in retaliation for his lawsuit.
“Dr. Pendergraft is a hero for continuing to provide full reproductive health care services to women in Florida, in a hostile and dangerous environment,” said Carla Josephson, president of the Orlando-area chapter of the National Organization for Women.
“It is clear that this prosecution is a new tactic being used to eliminate providers and further limit women’s access to reproductive health care.”
Representatives of the National Abortion Federation, the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, and Medical Students for Choice, among others, read prepared statements supporting Pendergraft.
Steve Cole, spokesman for Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Devereaux and Judy Hunt, declined to comment on allegations that the case was politically motivated.
“The only comments that we’re going to make regarding this trial are going to be inside the courtroom,” Cole said. On the street outside the clinic, Marion County Right-To-Life President Ed Martin said the case wasn’t about abortion.
“If he tried to extort money from Ocala or Marion County, then he needs to be convicted,” Martin said. “This doesn’t have anything at all to do with abortion.”
Judge Hodges told prospective jurors that abortion wasn’t the issue in the case.
“The case itself has nothing to do one way or the other with abortions, or with withholding abortions,” he said.
After the jury was selected and sent home for the day, Hodges dealt setbacks for the defense. Pendergraft and Spielvogel’s lawyers had asked Hodges not to allow into evidence tapes of telephone conversations between Cretul and Spielvogel prior to February 1999. Hodges rejected that motion, though he said Colleton, Rose and Brodersen could raise objections during the trial.
The lawyers also tried to exclude an FBI videotape of the alleged settlement meeting at which Lucas and Pendergraft reportedly threatened to bankrupt the county. Rose said Lucas’ statements on the tape are hearsay evidence, and that Lucas, not Pendergraft, mentioned the $100 million figure.
Prosecutor Devereaux argued that Lucas had been acting as an official agent representing Pendergraft and Spielvogel and that, therefore, his comments on the tape were not hearsay. Brodersen, Spielvogel’s attorney, objected, saying there was no evidence Lucas ever represented Spielvogel.
Hodges rejected the defense motion to withhold the tape, again saying the lawyers could object to all or part of it during testimony.
In addition to Cretul, the list of potential witnesses includes Sheriff Ed Dean, Ocala Police Chief Morrey Deen, County Commissioners Steve Henning, Randy Harris and Parnell Townley, former County Commissioner Judy Johnson, several area ministers, Melbourne-based anti-abortion activist Meredith Raney, and Spielvogel’s wife.
Roy Lucas is not on the witness list. Despite international efforts to track him down, he hasn’t been seen for months, Rose said Tuesday afternoon.
“We have tried four different investigative agencies, an international association,” Rose said. “We just can’t find him.”
The trial is expected to last at least into next week.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
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.)
Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
$17.95 — 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.)
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.)