By Editorial Staff
Published January 24, 2001
By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA, FL — Jurors in the extortion trial of Michael Spielvogel and Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV heard the details of Spielvogel’s life Tuesday, going back as far as high school.
Spielvogel and his wife, Mary, testified for the defense Tuesday. In doing so, they bared details of their life and marriage in open court.
Speaking softly, and in a near-monotone for nearly two hours, Spielvogel spoke of being threatened and persecuted throughout much of his life, starting when he was one of only five Jewish students attending a predominantly Catholic high school on Long Island.
Spielvogel also testified that when he was a teen-ager, federal agents temporarily relocated his family from New York to California after his father, a pharmacist, reported what turned out to be a hijacked truck full of medical supplies.
He later spoke of having a gun pointed at his head while trying to renovate a hotel, and of a 1970s kidnapping threat against his four children.
Under questioning by his attorney, Daniel Brodersen, Spielvogel also told jurors about his work history, ranging from having his own insurance agency to the real estate development career that began when he met Robert Wood Johnson III, an heir to the Johnson and Johnson medical supply fortune.
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.
Pendergraft owns the Ocala Women’s Center on Pine Avenue and four other Florida clinics that perform abortions.
The case stems from an investigation the FBI opened in October 1997, after Spielvogel called Marion County Commissioner Larry Cretul.
Earlier in the trial, Cretul testified Spielvogel said the county could expect “violent protests and firebombings” if the Pine Avenue clinic opened, but the problems could be avoided if the county bought the clinic property.
At the time, Spielvogel had started working as an adviser to Pendergraft while he and his wife were in the middle of a three-year separation. Mary Spielvogel is a clerical employee in one of Pendergraft’s Orlando clinics.
“My original goal in going to work with Dr. Pendergraft was to get my wife back,” Spielvogel testified. “To me — that was my goal.”
Unknown to Spielvogel, Cretul, at the FBI’s direction, secretly taped calls between Spielvogel and himself after that first call.
Spielvogel’s recollection of that first, unrecorded call was substantially different from Cretul’s.
Spielvogel testified he called Cretul in October 1997, about two weeks after Marion County commissioners sent a one-paragraph letter to Pendergraft asking him to reconsider his plans to open the Ocala clinic.
“I couldn’t comprehend a county official writing such a letter to this business,” Spielvogel said. “I took great offense to the letter.”
Even before making the call to Cretul, Spielvogel believed Marion County was not a good place for Pendergraft to place a clinic, he said.
“I thought it would be a very bad idea to open up after getting a letter like that,” he said. “I said to (Pendergraft) that it would not be a good idea to go and open a practice where you’re not welcome.”
Referring to Ocala twice as a “village,” Spielvogel testified he also was concerned about the conservative nature of the county, the distance from a major city, and that “I just thought it was an area of the state that was not friendly to his race.” Pendergraft is African American.
Spielvogel volunteered to call Cretul, who, as County Commission chairman, had signed the letter.
“My only objective was to see if he would retract the letter, just by seeing what kind of man Dr. Pendergraft was,” Spielvogel said.
Spielvogel testified that Cretul said the clinic would bring controversy to the county and he denied it would. After Spielvogel told Cretul that his wife worked for Pendergraft, Cretul allegedly said he wouldn’t have his wife working in the Ocala clinic.
Cretul also told Spielvogel the community would rally the churches to protest the clinic, Spielvogel testified.
“I was appalled a county official would say those things would happen,” he said.
According to Spielvogel, Cretul brought up the 1989 firebombings that destroyed an earlier abortion clinic in Ocala.
Cretul, the trial’s first witness, testified that Spielvogel was the one who brought up the firebombings and violent protest.
Toward the end of the call, Cretul allegedly asked what could be done to prevent the clinic from opening. Spielvogel suggested that someone buy the property.
“I had not talked to Dr. Pendergraft about anything,” Spielvogel said Tuesday. “The first thing that came to mind was have someone, a friend of the county, to buy the property. It just came out.”
Two days after that call, Cretul reported it to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, which referred him to the FBI.
Earlier in the day Tuesday, Mary Spielvogel contradicted statements her husband made during a meeting the FBI videotaped in March 1999. At that meeting, Spielvogel told the county’s lawyer, Virgil “Bill” Wright, that Mrs. Spielvogel heard him repeat threats Cretul allegedly made in a phone call to Spielvogel.
The FBI audiotape of the only known call between Spielvogel and Cretul on Jan. 29, 1998, contains no such threats. Mrs. Spielvogel testified Tuesday that she could not remember being in the room during any conversation between her husband and Cretul, let alone one that happened on Jan. 29 — her birthday.
Over repeated objections from Pendergraft’s and Spielvogel’s lawyers, Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges allowed prosecutor Judy Hunt to ask whether Mrs. Spielvogel knew her husband had relationships with other women during the couple’s separation. Mrs. Spielvogel quietly answered yes.
Hunt said the question raised the issue of how much Mrs. Spielvogel knew about her husband’s day-to-day life, including the nature of the work he did for Pendergraft, during the separation.
At the end of Mrs. Spielvogel’s testimony, attorney Brodersen asked Hodges to allow Mrs. Spielvogel to remain in the courtroom for the rest of the trial, to support her husband. Hodges left the decision to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux, who refused.
Devereaux declined to comment on the decision after court recessed for the day. Pendergraft spokeswoman Marti Mackenzie condemned the prosecutor’s action.
“The prosecutors were perfectly willing to delve into every painful aspect of their marital life and that they have reconciled and that they are obviously going through a very difficult time,” she said. “When the judge gave Devereaux the power to allow Mary to stay in the courtroom . . . he refused the Spielvogels that decent, kind allowance. There’s nothing legal about that. That’s just mean.”
The trial is scheduled to continue this morning, with Spielvogel again on the witness stand.
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.)
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.)
“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.)
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.)
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.)