By Editorial Staff
Published January 12, 2001
By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA — Even as Michael Spielvogel was under investigation by the FBI for allegedly trying to extort money from Marion County, he was volunteering to secretly tape Marion County Commissioner Larry Cretul, to try to catch Cretul threatening him, Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV and the Ocala Women’s Center.
“I think I should be wired, going to a meeting, and let’s put these people out of business,” Spielvogel told FBI Special Agent Pamela Piersanti in February 1998. “I’m willing to work with the FBI to get them.”
Instead, Piersanti was secretly recording her call to Spielvogel as part of an investigation. Prosecutors played the tape of that conversation Thursday at Spielvogel and Pendergraft’s federal extortion trial in Ocala.
Piersanti took the witness stand Thursday.
Courtroom proceedings focused more on Spielvogel than Pendergraft. Both men face charges they conspired to extort millions of dollars from Marion County government by making fraudulent statements in a lawsuit Pendergraft filed in December 1998.
Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges, now presiding over the trial, eventually dismissed the lawsuit.
Pendergraft owns the Ocala Women’s Center and four other clinics, in Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, all of which perform abortions.
Prosecutors allege Pendergraft and Spielvogel lied in the lawsuit by saying Cretul threatened Spielvogel and the clinic.
Virgil “Bill” Wright III, the lawyer who represented the county in the lawsuit testified earlier this week that Roy Lucas, Pendergraft’s former attorney, sent him copies of affidavits by Spielvogel and Pendergraft saying Cretul had threatened Spielvogel during a phone call hours after an Alabama clinic was firebombed in 1998 In the affidavit, Spielvogel’s said Cretul told him it was a matter of “when” the Ocala clinic was firebombed and that “what happened in Alabama would be nothing compared to what would happen in Ocala.”
Piersanti, the FBI agent, said Thursday that the investigation of Spielvogel began in October 1997 after he called Cretul. That call came after county commissioners wrote Pendergraft urging him to reconsider opening a clinic in Marion County.
In that call, Cretul testified, Spielvogel told him the county could expect violent protests and possible firebombings if the clinic opened, but that the controversy could be avoided if the county purchased the clinic property.
Two days later, Cretul contacted the Sheriff’s Office, which referred him to Piersanti.
“We had the suspicion that Michael Spielvogel was attempting to inflame public sentiment against the clinic, to get money,” Piersanti said Thursday. “He was going to do all these things, and as a result of that, they expected violent protests and firebombings at the clinic. . . . It was our suspicion that Michael Spielvogel was attempting to get money he wasn’t entitled to, through the use of fear.”
At Piersanti’s direction, Cretul began secretly recording telephone conversations with Spielvogel, and later, with Pendergraft.
After one such conversation Spielvogel called the FBI office in Tampa to report that Cretul had made the threats against him, his wife and the clinic. A tape of the call, played earlier in the trial, did not show Cretul making any threats.
Because Spielvogel lives in Orlando, the Tampa FBI office referred him to Orlando-based agent Susan Langford Den Brock.
Den Brock testified Thursday that she took Spielvogel’s complaint, then told him she would be required to pass it on to the Jacksonville office, which would refer it to an Ocala agent.
Spielvogel responded that he didn’t want the Ocala office involved, Den Brock said, although he wasn’t specific about why. The agent told him she had no jurisdiction because the FBI’s Jacksonville division controls the Ocala office.
Eventually, Spielvogel’s complaint became part of Piersanti’s investigation. In a call taped on Feb. 9, 1998, Spielvogel repeated his allegations against Cretul to Piersanti directly.
On the same tape, Spielvogel also said he talked to Den Brock and another agent about his proposal that Cretul have the county buy the clinic.
“I asked the FBI if I could do that, so it’s not like extortion or something,” Spielvogel said to Piersanti. “. . . I don’t want anybody to accuse me of extorting a municipality.”
Spielvogel pushed the idea that he should secretly record a meeting between Cretul and himself.
“Because of what happened in Alabama,” he said, “this would make a hell of a statement, to take down a government official for this kind of activity.”
Not long afterward, Piersanti and the U.S. Attorney’s Office came to the conclusion that Spielvogel’s comments in the telephone calls didn’t rise to the level of extortion, Piersanti said. But the case was reopened after Pendergraft sent a letter to Cretul telling him to contact Spielvogel if he had better plans for Pendergraft’s Ocala facility.
At that point, Cretul began talking by phone with Pendergraft, again recorded without Pendergraft’s knowledge. Yet again, Piersanti said, the government had no basis for an extortion charge against either man.
That changed with a March 1999, meeting among Pendergraft, Spielvogel, Lucas and Wright, the county’s lawyer. At that meeting, which was videotaped by the FBI, Lucas threatened to bankrupt Marion County, and Pendergraft concurred. At that meeting, Spielvogel again repeated his allegations that Cretul had threatened him.
Pendergraft’s attorneys contended Wednesday that Wright didn’t have the authority to negotiate on behalf of the county. On Thursday morning, they announced that, because Wright did have that authority, one of Pendergraft’s defense strategies will be entrapment by the government.
Pendergraft attorney Larry Colleton began cross-examining Piersanti late Thursday, questioning her credentials.
Colleton also questioned why Piersanti would allow Cretul to make calls to Pendergraft or Spielvogel without being present herself.
“If this is a responsible member of the community, I didn’t feel it was necessary” to be present, she said.
Heidi Mullis, a former Pendergraft employee, testified Thursday that Spielvogel called her at home twice, in August and October, as the case was getting ready to go to trial. Both times, Spielvogel asked her if she remembered when a Marion County official called the Orlando clinic and made threats, which Spielvogel repeated to the room.
On the second call, Spielvogel’s wife, Mary, also talked to Mullis, who testified Thursday that she told the couple that she could not remember any such phone call.
The trial is scheduled to continue this morning, with Piersanti again on the witness stand.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — 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.)
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.)
“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.)
“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. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.
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.)