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Extortion trial start postponed

By Editorial Staff
Published December 12, 2000

By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner

OCALA — The extortion trial of Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV, which was scheduled to start in federal court Monday, instead was postponed due to the death of Pendergraft’s grandmother.

Pendergraft’s lawyers, Jacob Rose and Larry Colleton filed an emergency motion for a 10-day continuance Monday morning with Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges. In their motion, the lawyers said Pendergraft’s grandmother, Sally L. Pendergraft, died at 5 a.m. Sunday in a North Carolina Hospital. The motion also said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux opposed the motion.

With prospective jurors waiting in the courtroom, prosecutors and attorneys for Pendergraft and co-defendant Michael Spielvogel met in Hodges’ chambers to argue the motion. Hodges entered the courtroom at 9:37 a.m. and dismissed the jury pool.

“This is regrettable, but unavoidable,” Hodges told the prospective jurors. The judge elected to postpone the trial until after the holidays, setting a new trial date of Jan. 2.

Pendergraft, Spielvogel and their attorneys left the courtroom without comment.

“We’re gratified by the judge’s compassion,” said Marti Mackenzie, Pendergraft’s spokeswoman.

Pendergraft owns the Ocala Women’s Center on Pine Avenue, which provides women’s health services, including abortions. He also operates four other clinics in Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

Steve Cole, spokesman for the Middle District of Florida U.S. Attorney’s office declined to say what Devereaux’s reaction was to the motion for continuance.

“We’re not going to discuss what was said in chambers,” he said. “We are just preparing for trial in January.”

The motion noted that Pendergraft was needed in North Carolina to direct funeral arrangements and handle other family matters. It also stated that he was close to his grandmother, “who assisted greatly in his upbringing.”

Sally Pendergraft had been hospitalized since suffering a stroke last month. That event prompted an earlier emergency continuance, to give Pendergraft an opportunity to travel to North Carolina to help his family make medical decisions at that time.

James Pendergraft and Spielvogel were indicted in federal court June 13. The five-count indictment alleges that the two men conspired to extort millions of dollars from Marion County government by making false and fraudulent statements in a civil lawsuit Pendergraft filed in December 1998. Hodges dismissed that suit last December.

The indictment alleges Pendergraft and Spielvogel lied in the civil suit by saying County Commissioner Larry Cretul threatened Spielvogel and the clinic. The indictment also alleges that Pendergraft and Spielvogel, through attorney Roy Lucas, threatened to bankrupt the county by asking for a $100 million judgment.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, lying under oath and mail fraud. Spielvogel faces additional charges of offering false testimony and making false statements to FBI investigators. Both Pendergraft and Spielvogel have pleaded not guilty.

Hodges has not yet ruled on two defense motions. The first motion is to move the trial to Orlando, and the second is to question prospective jurors individually, instead of in a group, to determine any bias on the issue of abortion.

A press conference at the Ocala Women’s Center that had been scheduled for the court’s lunch break Monday was canceled after Hodges granted the continuance.


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Martin Luther: Digitally Remastered 1953 Classic (DVD)

“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.

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Massacre of Innocence (DVD)

Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion

This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.

Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“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).

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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.

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