By Editorial Staff
Published January 23, 2001
By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA — As the federal trial of Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV and Michael Spielvogel resumed Monday, the judge dealt a blow to the defense.
Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges ruled that Pendergraft and Spielvogel’s attorneys could not call county commissioners and local ministers to the witness stand.
Hodges quashed defense subpoenas for Commissioners Randy Harris, Steve Henning and Parnell Townley; former Commissioner Judy Johnson; and several area ministers, including the Rev. Edward Johnson of the First Baptist Church of Ocala.
Pendergraft attorney Larry Colleton argued that the ministers’ testimony was needed to verify letters sent to Pendergraft urging him not to open an abortion clinic in Marion County. Colleton and Spielvogel attorney Daniel Brodersen called such testimony critical to their clients’ defense.
Hodges ruled that neither the ministers’ proposed testimony nor the letters were part of the case.
“I can see utterly no relevance whatsoever in this criminal prosecution to any of these letters,” Hodges said.
“But your honor…,” Colleton began.
“I have not invited you to interrupt me,” Hodges shot back.
He said: “The issue of abortion simply has no relevance in the case.”
Defense attorneys had subpoenaed Harris, Townley, Henning, and Johnson to testify about what, if any, information Commissioner Larry Cretul had shared with them about calls and letters between Cretul and Pendergraft or Spielvogel. Hodges also ruled that testimony irrelevant.
Pendergraft and Spielvogel are charged with conspiring to extort millions of dollars from Marion County government by making fraudulent statements in a lawsuit Pendergraft filed in December 1998. Hodges dismissed the civil suit a year later.
Pendergraft owns the Ocala Women’s Center, which performs abortions.
The case stems from an investigation FBI agent Pamela Piersanti opened in October 1997, after Spielvogel called Cretul. Spielvogel allegedly told Cretul the county could expect “violent protests and firebombings” if the clinic opened but the problems could be avoided if the county bought the clinic property. Cretul reported the call to the FBI.
At Piersanti’s direction, Cretul secretly taped calls between Spielvogel and himself.
The trial, which began Jan. 2, resumed Monday with Brodersen cross-examining Piersanti. She repeatedly testified she did not believe Spielvogel ever felt threatened by anything Cretul said to him.
Spielvogel complained to the FBI on Jan. 29, 1998, that Cretul had threatened him and the clinic. In a later affidavit, Spielvogel said he repeated Cretul’s alleged threats to Pendergraft as Cretul said them. Cretul’s tape of the call to Spielvogel that day includes no such threats, but Spielvogel still believed they happened, attorney Brodersen said Monday.
“Michael Spielvogel actually believed that those things had been discussed between him and Mr. Cretul,” he said in his opening statement to the jury.
Brodersen acknowledged that Pendergraft never was in the same room while Cretul was talking to Spielvogel, but said Spielvogel later faked a call at Pendergraft’s office, repeating the alleged threats for Pendergraft to hear.
Tampa-based FBI agent Kerry Myers was the last prosecution witness. Myers testified that he refused to take Spielvogel’s call to the Tampa FBI office on Jan. 29, 1998. Myers said he knew Spielvogel from a 1992 investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux did not ask Myers to elaborate on that investigation, and neither Pendergraft’s nor Spielvogel’s attorneys cross-examined him.
The defense began its case with attorney William Weatherford on the stand. Weatherford testified that he had advised Pendergraft on property purchases in other parts of the state, but not Ocala.
Weatherford also testified that he was present at a 1997 meeting at which Pendergraft and Spielvogel differed on whether to open the Ocala clinic.
“He (Spielvogel) was adamantly opposed to Dr. Pendergraft opening a clinic in Ocala,” Weatherford said. “He told me he believed it would be very dangerous for Dr. Pendergraft to open a clinic in Ocala.”
Pendergraft supporters held a press conference outside the clinic during the trial’s lunch break, to show their support for Pendergraft and to commemorate the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States.
“Thousands around the country are watching this trial and believe Dr. Pendergraft is being persecuted because he is an abortion provider,” said Dr. Sandy Pati, coordinator of the Right To Fight Coalition, a Pendergraft support organization.
“We realize this is a precedent-setting case,” added Tracy Stren of Refuse and Resist, another advocacy group supporting Pendergraft. “And we will not allow this to be used against other abortion providers.”
The trial, which had recessed for a week because Hodges was out of town, is scheduled to enter its 11th day this morning. Spielvogel is expected to testify, possibly as early as today. Pendergraft’s lawyers have said they’re not certain yet whether Pendergraft will testify.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
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.)
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.)
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — 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.)
High Quality Paperback — 219 pages
Foundations in Biblical Orthodoxy
Driving down a country road sometime, you might see a church with a sign proudly proclaiming: “No book but the Bible — No creed but Christ.” The problem with this statement is that the word creed (from the Latin: credo) simply means “belief.” All Christians have beliefs, regardless of whether they are written.
Yet a single book containing the actual texts of the most important creeds of the early Church will not often be found. Out of the multitude of works on the evangelical Christian book market today, those dealing with the creeds of the Church are scarce.
Why Creeds and Confessions? provides a foundation of biblical orthodoxy as a defense against the false and truly heretical doctrines advanced by the spirit of this age.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)