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Local attorney testifies at Pendergraft trial

By Editorial Staff
Published January 11, 2001

By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner

OCALA — The federal extortion trial of Michael Spielvogel and Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV turned into a lawyers’ duel Wednesday.

Local attorney Virgil “Bill” Wright III spent the day on the witness stand, nearly all of it under cross-examination by Pendergraft attorney Jacob Rose.

The atmosphere between Wright and Rose grew tense with Rose’s first question.

“You were influenced by your opposition to abortion, correct?” Rose asked.

Despite Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux’s objection that the question wasn’t relevant, Wright eventually answered that he opposes abortion and, in response to a later question, that he is a member of the First Baptist Church of Ocala. County Commission Chairman Larry Cretul, the first prosecution witness, also is a member of that church.

Pendergraft owns the Ocala Women’s Center and four other abortion clinics in the state.

Rose and Wright clashed repeatedly in their views about the case.

Pendergraft and Spielvogel were indicted last June, in a five-count indictment alleging they conspired to extort millions of dollars from Marion County government by making false and fraudulent statements in a civil lawsuit filed by Pendergraft in December 1998.

Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges dismissed the lawsuit year later, after Pendergraft and attorney Roy Lucas failed to pursue it. Hodges also is presiding over the criminal trial.

The indictment alleges Pendergraft and Spielvogel lied by saying Cretul threatened Spielvogel and the clinic.

Wright testified Tuesday that Lucas sent him copies of sworn affidavits by Spielvogel and Pendergraft saying Cretul threatened Spielvogel in a telephone conversation. Spielvogel’s affidavit said Cretul threatened the clinic, Spielvogel and Spielvogel’s wife, a clinic employee.

What Spielvogel and Pendergraft didn’t know was that Cretul had gone to the FBI after he received a call from Spielvogel months earlier and that the FBI was secretly taping conversations between Cretul and either of the two men.

Cretul did place a call to Spielvogel on Jan. 29, 1998, about 12 hours after an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., was firebombed.

According to Spielvogel’s affidavit, Cretul said, “what happened in Alabama would be nothing compared to what would happen in Ocala.”

Pendergraft’s affidavit said he believed Spielvogel because he was in the room when Spielvogel repeated the alleged threats from Cretul as Cretul made them.

After talking with FBI Special Agent Pamela Piersanti about Cretul’s involvement, Wright agreed to a meeting in his office, which the FBI secretly videotaped.

On Tuesday, Devereaux played a videotape of that March 22, 1999, meeting between Wright, Spielvogel, Pendergraft and Lucas. On that tape, Lucas spoke of solving the firebombings of an Ocala abortion clinic in 1989.

“That’s the real challenge of the case, is to solve the firebombings and bankrupt the county,” Lucas said.

Rose aggressively quizzed Wright throughout the day Wednesday, asking his motives in scheduling the meeting.

“They (Pendergraft, Spielvogel and Lucas) lied to get me into what you call a settlement conference and what I’d call an opportunity to further their criminal enterprise,” Wright said.

Rose asked Wright if he wasn’t lying, too, by having the meeting with no intention of negotiating a settlement. Rose raised the issue of whether it might have been better for the county to file for a dismissal of the case instead of scheduling the meeting. Wright acknowledged it might have been, in an ordinary case.

“Isn’t that a conflict of interest?” Rose nearly shouted at one point.

Wright responded that he was cooperating with the FBI, not negotiating anything.

Much of the interaction between Rose and Wright was repetitive, to the extent that shortly after 4 p.m., Hodges asked Rose what point he was trying to make.

“Mr. Rose, I’ve been listening to about 3 hours of cross-examination, which, to me, is pointless,” Hodges said outside the presence of the jury. “If this line continues on the way it’s been proceeding this afternoon, I’m going to suggest you find another line of questioning, and if you are unable to do that, I’m going to suggest that you terminate your cross-examination.”

Rose finished his questioning, Wright left the witness stand and Hodges recessed the trial for the day.

A juror who was injured in a fall during the court’s lunch break Tuesday returned to the courtroom Wednesday morning. The woman had fallen outside a downtown restaurant, striking her head. She was treated at a local hospital Tuesday afternoon.

Also Wednesday, several local ministers, all of whom oppose abortion, filed a motion to quash subpoenas from Pendergraft and Spielvogel’s lawyers. The group includes the Rev. Edward Johnson, pastor at First Baptist. Hodges had not ruled on the motion by Wednesday afternoon.

The trial is scheduled to resume this morning.


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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Welcome to the Second American Revolution!

This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

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).

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Running Time: 195 minutes

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

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.

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The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

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

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The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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