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Prosecutor: Abortion Doctor Tried To Get Payoff

By Editorial Staff
Published January 4, 2001

Jurors Heard Recorded Conversations As Testimony Began In The Federal Extortion-conspiracy Case

By Pedro Ruz Gutierrez of The Sentinel Staff

OCALA — An Orlando doctor and his associate tried to wrest a payoff for as much as $500,000 from a county commissioner three years ago to avert the opening of a controversial abortion clinic in Marion County, a federal prosecutor told trial jurors Wednesday.

“Cut a check, or we’ll shake you down,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux in outlining the extortion-conspiracy case against Dr. James Pendergraft and business associate Michael Spielvogel.

As testimony in the case began Wednesday, jurors heard the first of several tape-recorded conversations. The prosecutor likened the case against Pendergraft, 43, and Spielvogel, 54, to motorists staging a crash and defrauding insurers.

“It’s not any different than two people faking a car accident, and then we’ll just sue our respective car-insurance companies,” Devereaux said.

Not so, said attorneys for Pendergraft and Spielvogel, both Orlando area residents.

“You will see that Dr. Pendergraft is being persecuted for what he does,” Jacob Rose, one of Pendergraft’s two attorneys, told the jury. “Pendergraft is not guilty of any wrongdoing, and those who are guilty are those who conspired to get him.”

Rose said FBI agents, prosecutors and local leaders started trying to incriminate Pendergraft after a 1997 conversation between County Chairman Larry Cretul and Spielvogel, the real-estate broker who acted as site manager for Pendergraft’s clinic in Ocala.

Rose also told jurors to expect “exaggerations” from prosecutors. He said amounts of money discussed during the phone calls came up “in the context of negotiations” and concerned Pendergraft’s future loss of income at the proposed Ocala clinic.

However, Cretul testified that Spielvogel threatened controversy and implied extortion when the broker telephoned to respond to a 1997 letter that Cretul had written to Pendergraft asking him to reconsider opening his clinic.

“Mr. Spielvogel told me all of this could be avoided if we bought this building for $500,000,” Cretul said of the call, which was not recorded.

Cretul’s notes from that conversation, however, were admitted as evidence. “Wants to be bought off,” read Cretul’s scribbled notes.

Several weeks later, Cretul contacted the FBI, which spawned a three-year investigation that culminated last summer in an indictment against Pendergraft and Spielvogel.

“You need to buy the building from me, and I’ve got to make a nice profit,” Spielvogel could be heard in a subsequent taped conversation. In another recording, Spielvogel says, “It’s not a payoff or extortion.”

In yet another phone call, when Cretul would not commit to any deal, Spielvogel suggested the county chairman arrange a collection from protesting church leaders and parishioners to come up with the money.

Pendergraft and Spielvogel are accused of conspiracy to defraud, interfering with commerce by threatening extortion, and mail fraud. Spielvogel also is charged with lying to FBI agents and filing a false 1999 affidavit stating Cretul had made threats that the new clinic would be firebombed. Pendergraft filed his own affidavit supporting Spielvogel’s account.

Tapes from 1997 and 1998 that were played Wednesday did not include a video recording which supposedly shows Pendergraft, Spielvogel, their former civil-trial lawyer and a Marion County attorney discussing a settlement of up to $100 million for damages in a separate civil suit.

Pendergraft’s 1998 suit includes affidavits by him and Spielvogel, which Devereaux says were falsely submitted.

Devereaux, who lowered his voice when quoting Pendergraft and Spielvogel, said the two, using a lawyer, schemed to try to “bankrupt” Marion County when they met with a county attorney in 1999.

“Not try. We will,” Devereaux quoted the doctor as saying. “We’ll build a statue . . . that says Dr. Pendergraft brought freedom to Marion County.”

Devereaux told the 14 jurors they would have a unique opportunity to assess the tones of voice in the cassettes. “It’s better than any cop show or anything else,” he said.

Driven by greed, the associates threatened to create a climate of protests and controversy that would overwhelm Ocala if county officials did not go along with plans to either establish the clinic or buy out the property, prosecutors said.

Before opening statements got under way, Devereaux complained to Judge W. Terrell Hodges about a large balloon and banner outside Pendergraft’s Ocala Women’s Center, which is near the federal courthouse on a main thoroughfare.

The messages, including dozens of national and local abortion-rights signatories, read in part, “Stop attacking abortion providers. Dr. Pendergraft is innocent.”

“If this is an attempt to influence the jury, it has very serious consequences,” Terrell said before ordering the defense to remove the objects. “How can that be interpreted, other than an attempt to influence the jury?”

Supporters of Pendergraft suggested the judge was infringing on their First Amendment rights.


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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

Download the free Study Guide!

Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.

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Running Time: 195 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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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.

“… an extraordinary statement … a powerfully articulate presentation about what abortion really means, and why a great and moral nation like the United States must not allow the slaughter to continue.”
— Congressman Robert K. Dornan

Running time: 85 minutes

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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)

Running Time: 145 minutes

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

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The Abortion Matrix DVD: Update

The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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