By Editorial Staff
Published January 9, 2001
By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA — Conspiracy, lies and audiotapes were the source of debate on Monday at the federal extortion trial of Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV and Michael Spielvogel.
Pendergraft is the owner of the Ocala Women’s Center on North Pine Avenue, a clinic that, among other procedures, offers abortion services. He also operates other clinics in Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.
The day began with Pendergraft and Spielvogel’s attorneys questioning the propriety of Marion County Commissioner Larry Cretul’s review over the weekend of transcripts of telephone calls between himself and Pendergraft or Spielvogel.
Cretul had secretly taped the calls at the direction of FBI agents investigating Pendergraft and Spielvogel.
From the witness stand, Cretul acknowledged that he had reviewed the transcripts on Sunday, and had spoken with FBI Special Agent Pamela Piersanti.
Although witnesses at the trial are prohibited from talking with each other, Piersanti is exempt from that rule because she is the FBI case agent handling the case.
“I’m sure that we didn’t talk about the testimony that I was about to give,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux objected to the defense attorneys’ contention that Cretul might have done something improper.
“Counsel is clearly trying to suggest some type of wrongdoing,” he said. “There’s no basis for that.”
A knee injury sustained in the courtroom during a power failure Friday didn’t slow down Pendergraft attorney Jacob Rose’s rapid-fire barrage of questions in cross-examining Cretul. Starting promptly at 9 a.m., Rose made his way on crutches to a stool at the courtroom lectern facing the witness stand.
Sitting at the lectern throughout the day, Rose quizzed Cretul on virtually every aspect of his taped conversations with Pendergraft, demanding to know Cretul’s motives.
Pendergraft and Spielvogel were indicted last June, in a five-count indictment that alleges 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.
Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges dismissed that lawsuit a year later, after Pendergraft and attorney Roy Lucas failed to pursue it.
The indictment alleges Pendergraft and Spielvogel lied in the lawsuit by saying Cretul threatened Spielvogel and the clinic. The indictment also alleges that Pendergraft and Spielvogel, through attorney Lucas, threatened to bankrupt the county by asking for a $100 million judgment.
Both Pendergraft and Spielvogel are charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, lying under oath and mail fraud. Spielvogel also faces 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.
Rose spent much of the day Monday questioning Cretul’s motivations and asking whether he had a personal interest in seeing Pendergraft arrested. Cretul testified last week that he personally opposes abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the woman.
Rose asked Cretul if he expected Pendergraft to say something incriminating during one of the taped calls.
“I had no desire for him to say it,” Cretul responded. “In fact, I was hoping he wouldn’t.”
Throughout much of the day, Cretul repeated that he was doing as he was told by Piersanti, a rationale he has used often since first taking the witness stand last Wednesday.
Cretul acknowledged he lied to Pendergraft in the taped conversations, on Piersanti’s instructions, about the possibility of the county or someone else paying Pendergraft not to open a clinic in Ocala.
“If you were not expecting him to say anything incriminating, why on God’s earth did you lie to him time after time?” Rose asked.
“At the direction of the FBI, sir,” Cretul responded. “If you want to characterize it as a lie, fine, but I was doing what I was told to do.”
Rose asked Cretul repeatedly about lying to Pendergraft, to the point that Hodges intervened.
“Mr. Rose, I think the subject of this cross-examination has been exhausted,” Hodges said. “(Cretul) has admitted he lied. I suggest you move on to another subject.”
Cretul and Pendergraft had their last recorded conversation on April 8, 1998. Rose asked why records of Cretul’s cell phone calls showed several later conversations with FBI agent Piersanti. Rose wanted to know what Piersanti and Cretul discussed during those calls.
“It may well have been why there may have been a black Mercedes sitting in front of my father’s house taking pictures,” Cretul responded. “I was told to report any unusual situations that might occur, possibly for my personal safety.”
Cretul explained that his father had confronted a man outside his home one day who was taking pictures. The man said he was taking pictures “for a friend,” then sped off, Cretul said.
Toward the end of Cretul’s testimony, Rose touched on the heart of two of the government’s charges, the affidavits Spielvogel and Pendergraft filed in the civil case.
In his affidavit, Spielvogel alleged that Cretul made threats against the clinic and Spielvogel’s wife. In his own affidavit, Pendergraft swore he believed Spielvogel was telling the truth because Spielvogel had told him about having such a conversation with Cretul.
Under questioning by Rose, Cretul said he had no knowledge about what Pendergraft might have believed but said he never made any threats.
Cretul’s testimony concluded at 3:50 p.m. Monday, after 3 days on the witness stand. The trial is scheduled to continue this morning.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
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.)
“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.
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.)
Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion
This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.
Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.
“… an extraordinary statement … a powerfully articulate presentation about what abortion really means, and why a great and moral nation like the United States must not allow the slaughter to continue.”
— Congressman Robert K. Dornan
Running time: 85 minutes
$19.95 — 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.)