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!
“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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)