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!
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.)
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).
Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.
Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!
Running Time: 195 minutes
$19.95 — 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.)
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.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
$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.)