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.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
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.)
That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“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.
$14.95 — 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.)
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.)