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Pendergraft extortion trial jury returns, 2/1/2001

By Editorial Staff
Published February 1, 2001

By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner

OCALA — Jurors in the federal extortion trial of Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV and Michael Spielvogel deliberated for nearly seven hours Wednesday without reaching a verdict.

Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges sent the jury home for the day at 4:45 p.m., six hours and 45 minutes after deliberations began. He instructed them to return at 9 a.m. today.

Pendergraft owns the Ocala Women’s Center on Pine Avenue and four other clinics, in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, which perform abortions. He and Spielvogel, whom Pendergraft has described as his “strategic strategist,” are charged with conspiracy, extortion and mail fraud. Spielvogel also is charged with filing a false affidavit and making false statements to the FBI.

The day began with Pendergraft’s lawyers, Jacob Rose and Larry Colleton, and Spielvogel’s lawyer, Daniel Brodersen, asking Hodges to declare a mistrial. Rose alleged that closing remarks made by prosecutors Mark Devereaux and Judy Hunt on Wednesday were so prejudicial the defense could not overcome them.

The prosecutors said Wednesday that Pendergraft and Spielvogel had committed perjury on the witness stand, with Devereaux saying the jury should not believe any of Pendergraft’s testimony. Hunt used the phrase “bomb, murder and maim” to describe the threat Spielvogel said Marion County Commissioner Larry Cretul had made to him on the telephone.

Spielvogel admitted last week that Cretul had never made any such threat.

“It’s our position that these are unfair and inflammatory comments, meant only to inflame the jury,” Brodersen said.

Hodges denied the mistrial motions.

In his instructions, Hodges told the jurors they could consider any witnesses’ views on abortion as to how it affected their behavior but added, “The matter of abortion is not otherwise involved in this case.

“There is no issue in this case whether abortions are right or wrong,” he added, “and you should not be influenced by your own feelings about abortion, whatever your view might be.”

If convicted, Spielvogel could face up to 40 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines. Pendergraft could face up to 30 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.


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