By Editorial Staff
Published January 10, 2001
By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA — Less than three hours after prosecutors showed a videotape Tuesday in which Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV pledged to put a statue of himself in the center of Ocala, the federal extortion conspiracy trial of Pendergraft and Michael Spielvogel came to a second unscheduled halt.
Prosecutors showed the 69-minute tape just before the trial broke for lunch. During the lunch break, a woman juror fell and struck her head on the sidewalk or the curb outside a downtown restaurant. The woman was knocked unconscious and was taken by ambulance to Ocala Regional Medical Center for examination.
At 2 p.m., Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges recessed the trial for the day to see if the woman would be able to continue as a juror this morning. If she cannot continue, Hodges will designate one of two alternate jurors to take her place.
“This is beginning to be a star-crossed case, I’m afraid,” Hodges said.
The incident marked the second time in less than a week that a fall has affected the trial. Pendergraft defense attorney Jacob Rose fell last Friday during a courtroom power outage and re-injured his left knee, on which he had surgery in September. Hodges recessed the trial Friday for a half-day.
A faulty circuit breaker caused the Friday blackout in the windowless courtroom. On Tuesday, that circuit breaker’s replacement tripped twice while Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux played the videotape, secretly recorded by the FBI, of a meeting between Pendergraft, his then-attorney Roy Lucas, Spielvogel and Virgil “Bill” Wright III, the lawyer representing Marion County.
Although brief, each outage triggered gasps from the courtroom audience. Like last week, the courtroom emergency lights didn’t work, but, unlike last week, marshals in the courtroom had high-powered flashlights.
After the second incident, Hodges instructed U.S. marshals to turn off half the lights in the courtroom to prevent the video equipment from tripping the breaker. The videotape then played to its conclusion.
On the tape, Lucas told Wright at one point that the county would have to pay a substantial settlement or risk bankruptcy if a lawsuit filed by Pendergraft in December 1998 went to a jury.
“We got a serious case. We’re going to go for a verdict of a hundred million dollars, and they (had) better come up with some money or they’re going to get burned,” Lucas said. “We’ll try to bankrupt the county.”
“Not try. We will bankrupt the county,” Pendergraft said on the tape. “And I promise you, I will put a statue of myself in the middle, once we get the county, that says that Dr. Pendergraft brought freedom to Ocala.”
The videotaped March 1999 meeting came about after Pendergraft filed a lawsuit against the county, the city of Ocala, Sheriff Ed Dean, former Sheriff Ken Ergle, Ocala Police Chief Morrey Deen and a dozen anti-abortion activists. The lawsuit alleged the city and county failed to provide adequate protection for the Ocala Women’s Center.
Pendergraft and Spielvogel were indicted last June in a five-count indictment charging they conspired to extort millions of dollars from Marion County government by making false and fraudulent statements in that lawsuit. Hodges dismissed the lawsuit a year later, after Pendergraft and attorney Roy Lucas did not pursue it.
The indictment alleges Pendergraft and Spielvogel lied in the lawsuit by saying Cretul threatened Spielvogel and the clinic. The indictment also alleges Pendergraft and Spielvogel, through attorney Lucas, threatened to bankrupt the county by asking for a $100 million judgment.
Wright testified Tuesday that Lucas sent him copies of affidavits by Spielvogel and Pendergraft saying Cretul threatened Spielvogel by telephone on Jan. 29, 1998. Spielvogel’s affidavit said Cretul threatened the clinic, Spielvogel and Spielvogel’s wife, a clinic employee.
The call took place about 12 hours after an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., was firebombed, killing an off-duty police officer and critically injuring a nurse. According to Spielvogel’s affidavit, Cretul said it wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when” the Ocala clinic was firebombed and that “what happened in Alabama would be nothing compared to what would happen in Ocala.”
Pendergraft’s affidavit said he believed Spielvogel was telling the truth because he was present when the call took place and that Spielvogel repeated Cretul’s remarks to him immediately after Cretul said them.
What Spielvogel and Pendergraft, and later Lucas, didn’t know was that the FBI was secretly recording conversations between Cretul and Spielvogel or Pendergraft as part of an investigation that began after Spielvogel first called Cretul in October 1997. Audiotapes played earlier in the trial give no indication that Cretul made the threats that Spielvogel alleged.
Wright, acting as the county’s attorney in the matter, was briefed about the investigation by FBI Special Agent Pamela Piersanti. With Lucas seeking a meeting with Wright to negotiate, Wright agreed to cooperate with the FBI and allow the agency to videotape that meeting. The meeting took place March 22, 1999, in a conference room at Wright’s office, with a video camera hidden behind Wright’s chair, facing Lucas, Pendergraft and Spielvogel.
Cretul was not named in the lawsuit. At the meeting, Lucas told Wright that he would be filing an amended complaint that listed Cretul. Lucas also mentioned a $107 million verdict against some Oregon abortion foes who had advocated violence against abortion providers.
“We have every intention to try to get a verdict that size or larger,” Lucas said.
Both Pendergraft and Spielvogel 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.
Since Pendergraft and Spielvogel were indicted, Lucas has resigned his Washington, D.C., Bar Association membership and disappeared.
Tuesday’s recess means the trial is likely to extend into late January. If jurors don’t get the case by Friday, it will be continued to Jan. 22.
The trial was scheduled to continue this morning.
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.)
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.)
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.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.
$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.)