By Editorial Staff
Published January 27, 2001
By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA — Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV testified Friday that he believes county commissioners, the Ocala Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office could be involved in a conspiracy to drive him out of Ocala.
A combination of factors, ranging from a letter by the County Commission to the FBI’s refusal to pursue a complaint, made him think a conspiracy was possible, Pendergraft said during his federal extortion trail.
Pendergraft owns the Ocala Women’s Center on North Pine Avenue and four other Florida clinics that perform abortions.
He spent a full day on the witness stand in his own defense. He and his associate, Michael Spielvogel, are charged with attempting to extort millions of dollars from Marion County through a lawsuit.
The Ocala Women’s Center opened in July 1998, to heavy protests from anti-abortion activists. Pendergraft testified Thursday that protesters frequently blocked the clinic’s entrance and driveway and approached to within five feet of patients and staff.
Pendergraft had filed the lawsuit on the advice of attorney Roy Lucas in December 1998. Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges dismissed the suit a year later, after Lucas failed to pursue it. Hodges is presiding over Pendergraft and Spielvogel’s criminal trial.
On Friday, Pendergraft repeatedly testified that his reasons for filing the lawsuit were to get an injunction requiring anti-abortion protesters to move back from the clinic entrance and driveway, and to force the city of Ocala to allow off-duty police officers to work as security guards at the clinic.
The FBI began investigating Spielvogel and Pendergraft in October 1997, after Spielvogel called Marion County Commissioner Larry Cretul. The County Commission had sent Pendergraft a letter asking him not to open the clinic.
Cretul has testified Spielvogel told him the county could expect “violent protests and firebombings” if the clinic opened — problems could be avoided if the county bought the property.
Cretul, at the FBI’s direction, taped subsequent phone conversations with Pendergraft and Spielvogel.
On Jan. 29, 1998, Spielvogel told the Tampa FBI office Cretul had threatened him, his wife and the Ocala clinic.
Spielvogel admitted earlier in the week that he later drove to Pendergraft’s Ocala clinic and faked a call from Cretul in front of Pendergraft to make the doctor believe Cretul had made the threats.
In March 1999, Spielvogel filed an affidavit in the lawsuit, recounting the threats he alleged Cretul made. Pendergraft filed another affidavit supporting Spielvogel’s version of events, saying he had witnessed Spielvogel’s end of the conversation.
Attorney Lucas, who has since disappeared, tried to get money from the county, using those affidavits. During a secretly videotaped meeting at the office of Virgil “Bill” Wright, the county’s lawyer, Spielvogel repeated his allegations against Cretul, and Pendergraft supported him. Lucas threatened to bankrupt the county, and Pendergraft said he would do so and place a statue of himself downtown saying he “brought freedom to Ocala.”
Pendergraft testified he relied exclusively on Lucas’ advice in seeking a settlement. But he also repeated that he wouldn’t hesitate to bankrupt the county if that was what it took to protect women’s legal right to abortion and his right to operate his clinic in Ocala.
“If the law says I can do that, as I said before, I have no problem with taking it all away,” he said. “I’m not even ashamed about it.”
As part of the FBI investigation of Spielvogel and, later, Pendergraft, FBI agent Pamela Piersanti told Spielvogel in February 1998 that the agency wouldn’t open an investigation based on his complaint against Cretul.
Pendergraft said the combination of events — the County Commission’s letter, the alleged threats from Cretul, Spielvogel’s apparent fear of Ocala, protest letters from area churches, the difficulty in getting off-duty police protection and the FBI’s refusal to investigate Spielvogel’s complaint — prompted him to consider the possibility of a plot to drive him out of Ocala.
“How much more do you have to have to say that there’s a possibility — a possibility — that there’s a conspiracy?” he asked.
Pendergraft also said he believed Spielvogel was just a way for the government to indict him.
“They used Michael as a pawn to get me,” he said.
Much of Friday’s testimony was repetitive, with Pendergraft slowly and distinctly responding, “That is correct,” or, “Yes, I did,” during Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux’s cross-examination.
Devereaux quizzed Pendergraft about comments he made to Cretul in taped conversations between the two men. After Pendergraft said he believed Cretul had threatened Spielvogel, and that Pendergraft felt threatened by some of Cretul’s remarks, Devereaux asked why Pendergraft had told Cretul he respected him.
“You have to have some respectful grounds in order to negotiate and do some things, even with your enemy,” Pendergraft responded.
Yet Pendergraft said he didn’t believe Cretul had similar motives in making similar statements.
“He was glad he was talking to me, because he was trying to put me in prison for the rest of my life,” Pendergraft said.
Toward the end of the day, Pendergraft’s soft baritone became louder as he and Devereaux began to clash more.
“You’re still missing the point, aren’t you?” Pendergraft said. “This whole thing, which the United States government has somehow gotten into, the whole thing was about pushing back the protesters and getting police protection.”
The trial is scheduled to enter its 15th day Monday, with Pendergraft again taking the witness stand. It is expected to conclude next week.
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.)
“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 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.)
“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!
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.)