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 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.)
“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.
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.)
“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.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)