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.
Forerunner - Home » Florida's Murder Industry »
Your comments are welcome!
“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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
“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.)