By Editorial Staff
Published January 31, 2001
By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA — A federal prosecutor in the extortion trial of Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV said Tuesday that when Pendergraft testifies he “shucks and jives,” a comment that one of Pendergraft’s lawyers said has racial overtones.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux made the remark during his closing argument in the case.
“He’s a man that, when you ask him a question and you want to get a straight answer, shucks and jives,” Devereaux said.
Devereaux is white. Pendergraft and his attorneys, Jacob Rose and Larry Colleton, are black.
Pendergraft owns the Ocala Women’s Center on Pine Avenue and four other clinics in Florida that provide abortions. He and his associate Michael Spielvogel are charged with conspiring to extort millions of dollars from Marion County government through a lawsuit attorney Roy Lucas filed in December 1998.
Rose said he found Devereaux’s remark offensive.
“Absolutely, unquestionably, I was offended by it, and Dr. Pendergraft was as well,” he said. “With respect to making that kind of statement, it shouldn’t be allowed. He owes me and Dr. Pendergraft and everyone else in that courtroom an apology. I do intend to address it further. That, to me, was so offensive and out of line.”
Rose declined to be more specific about what action he planned.
Devereaux declined to comment afterward, as did Steve Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
The FBI began investigating Spielvogel and Pendergraft in October 1997, shortly after Marion County commissioners sent a one-paragraph letter asking Pendergraft to reconsider opening a women’s clinic in Ocala.
Soon after Pendergraft received the letter, Spielvogel called Commissioner Larry Cretul, who had signed the letter as commission chairman. In that telephone conversation, Cretul testified, Spielvogel said the county could expect “violent protests and firebombings” at the clinic, but the county could avoid problems by purchasing the clinic.
Two days later, Cretul reported that conversation to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, which referred him to the FBI. At the FBI’s instruction, Cretul secretly taped subsequent telephone conversations with Spielvogel and with Pendergraft.
Devereaux’s comment was perhaps the most controversial in a day of strong rhetoric, as Devereaux, his assistant Judy Hunt, Rose and Spielvogel attorney Daniel Brodersen each made their final case to the jury.
Devereaux and Hunt accused Pendergraft and Spielvogel of lying on the witness stand.
“You got to see crime in progress, right from that witness stand,” Devereaux told jurors. “And what crime in progress? Perjury. And what crime in progress? Obstruction of justice.”
For his part, Rose attacked the government’s case as “great drama, a lot of atmosphere, no evidence.”
“When the light comes on, . . . there’s absolutely no evidence of guilt,” Rose said.
Rose literally waved the flag for his client Tuesday, at one point pulling out a small American flag as he accused Cretul of using his office to advance his personal stand against abortion.
“Once you’re paid by the public, under our flag,” Rose said, “you are not allowed to carry out a personal agenda. It is absolutely, unequivocally un-American.”
The case rests on two affidavits, one by Spielvogel and the other by Pendergraft, that were filed as part of the lawsuit. Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges dismissed the lawsuit a year after it was filed because Lucas didn’t pursue it.
In his affidavit, Spielvogel alleged Cretul made threats against his life, his wife and the clinic during a telephone conversation on Jan. 29, 1998, the same day a Birmingham, Ala., clinic was bombed. That bombing killed an off-duty police officer and critically injured a nurse.
Spielvogel admitted on the stand last week that Cretul made no such threats. Brodersen, Spielvogel’s lawyer, argued that the issue wasn’t whether Cretul actually made such threats but whether Spielvogel felt threatened by a comment from Cretul that protest letters from Ocala ministers were “gonna be mild.”
“If you find that Michael Spielvogel was threatened by that comment, then the government’s entire case comes crashing down,” he said. “The house of cards collapses.”
Pendergraft’s affidavit said Spielvogel repeated Cretul’s alleged threats to him as Cretul made them.
Lucas, who disappeared before Pendergraft and Spielvogel were indicted last June, attempted to use those affidavits to get money from the county in a meeting in March 1999 with Pendergraft, Spielvogel and Virgil “Bill” Wright III, a lawyer representing the county.
Pendergraft testified last week that his purpose in filing the lawsuit was to force anti-abortion protesters back from the clinic and to force the city to allow off-duty police officers to work as clinic security guards.
A secretly recorded FBI videotape of the March 1999 meeting shows Lucas threatening to bankrupt the county by asking for a $100 million jury verdict under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act if the case went to trial. Spielvogel repeated his allegations against Cretul, and Pendergraft vowed to bankrupt the county and place a statue of himself in the town square saying he “brought freedom to Ocala.”
Spielvogel testified last week that he had faked a call from Cretul, repeating threats Cretul allegedly made, as Pendergraft walked into the office at the Orlando clinic. Spielvogel also said he first told his own attorney, Pendergraft and Pendergraft’s attorneys about the faked call about 10 days after the trial had begun.
Prosecutors Hunt and Devereaux argued Tuesday that the faked call, on which Pendergraft based his affidavit supporting Spielvogel, never happened either.
“These events didn’t happen. We know they didn’t happen,” she said.
The FBI’s covert audiotapes and videotape were the only things that prevented Pendergraft and Spielvogel from destroying Cretul’s reputation and collecting a substantial amount of money from the county, Hunt said.
“Without those FBI tapes, they could have gotten away with it,” she said.
The trial is scheduled to resume 9 a.m. today, its 17th day, with jury instructions. Hodges said Tuesday those instructions are likely to take about half an hour, after which the jury will begin deliberating.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
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.)
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.)
“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.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.
$19.95 — 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.)