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Abortionist denies extortion charges

By Editorial Staff
Published July 7, 2000

By Bill Thompson, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner

OCALA — An Orlando doctor and his former real estate consultant pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges they schemed to extort millions of dollars from Marion County taxpayers.

James Scott Pendergraft, owner of the Ocala Women’s Center at 108 N. Pine Ave., denied allegations he intentionally lied about threats to his clinic, at which abortions are performed, in order to settle a federal lawsuit he brought against city and county officials.

Pendergraft’s former business consultant and co-defendant, Michael Spielvogel, also asserted his innocence.

A federal grand jury indicted Pendergraft and Spielvogel on June 13, charging them with one count each of conspiracy to commit extortion, lying under oath and mail fraud. Spielvogel faces one additional count each of offering false testimony and making false statements to FBI investigators.

U.S. Magistrate Gary R. Jones accepted the pleas and ordered the defendants immediately released on their own recognizance, citing their clean criminal records and their strong community ties in Orlando. However, Jones did make them to surrender their passports and to turn over any weapons they might own.

Jones set their trial for Sept. 5.

If convicted as charged, Pendergraft faces up to 30 years in prison and fines of $750,000, the judge said. Spielvogel could receive 40 years behind bars and fines of $1.25 million, if convicted as charged.

The accusations stem from the defendants’ actions during a lawsuit Pendergraft filed in December 1998. He sued Marion County, the City of Ocala, police Chief Morrey Deen, Marion County Sheriff Ed Dean, former sheriff Ken Ergle and a dozen anti-abortion activists, alleging officials failed to provide adequate protection for his clinic.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit in December.

Federal prosecutors maintain that as the lawsuit proceeded between February 1999 and April 1999 Spielvogel concocted stories about Marion County Commissioner Larry Cretul saying Pendergraft’s clinic would be fire bombed or that Spielvogel’s wife, who worked there, would be harmed.

Pendergraft’s lawyer in the civil action, Roy Lucas, subsequently relayed Cretul’s alleged threats to Virgil “Bill” Wright III, a lawyer representing Marion County, and other attorneys involved in the lawsuit, according to the indictment.

Pendergraft and Spielvogel also submitted sworn statements, described by prosecutors as “false, fraudulent and libelous,” attesting to Cretul’s remarks, the indictment says.

Federal prosecutors contend Pendergraft, Spielvogel and Lucas met with Wright in March 1999 to settle the lawsuit. If not done so to their satisfaction, the plaintiffs said they would repeat Cretul’s supposed threats in court and “bankrupt” Marion County by asking a jury to award them more than $100 million, investigators say.

Thursday, Pendergraft entered his plea about two hours after he proclaimed his innocence at a news conference held in his office at his Ocala clinic, which he opened in July 1998.

“The allegations contained in the indictment filed against me are untrue,’‘ said Pendergraft, 43. “I am not a criminal. I’m completely innocent of all charges.”

Pendergraft said the criminal charges partly could be attributed to the anti-abortion sentiment of county commissioners, Cretul in particular. Pendergraft, who operates four other clinics in Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa, said officials here have been the most hostile to him.

Pendergraft’s lawyer in the criminal case, Larry Colleton of Orlando, promised to mount a vigorous defense, saying his client believed Spielvogel was being truthful about Cretul’s threats.

Colleton added that it wasn’t likely the community’s anti-abortion feelings would dissipate in the near future.

Pendergraft’s co-counsel, Jacob Rose of West Palm Beach, said Pendergraft’s defense team most likely would request a change of venue because the “inflammatory conduct” already demonstrated meant Pendergraft probably wouldn’t get a fair trial in Ocala.

Spielvogel, 53, and his lawyer, Daniel Brodersen of Orlando, both declined to comment on the case following the hearing.


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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“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. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.

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.

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The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

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)

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?

Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

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.

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Running Time: 130 minutes

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

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.

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