By Rick Cundiff, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner
OCALA — Dr. James Scott Pendergraft IV is scheduled to report to prison today to begin serving a 46-month sentence.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Tuesday a motion to allow Pendergraft to remain free on bond while he appeals his conviction on attempted extortion, conspiracy and mail fraud charges.
Pendergraft, 44, owns the Ocala Women’s Center and four other Florida clinics which provide abortion services. He is expected to report to a federal minimum-security prison camp in Atlanta sometime today.
Pendergraft’s lawyer, Bruce Rogow said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the appellate court’s refusal to allow Pendergraft to stay out of prison while he appeals his case.
“We will continue to work to reverse the conviction and secure his release,” Rogow said.
Although Pendergraft could have appealed Tuesday’s decision to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, he chose not to, Rogow said.
“We’re not going to do that,” he said. “The energy that it would take would not be rewarded with success.”
Pendergraft could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Spokeswoman Marti Mackenzie said he had accepted going to prison.
“When I spoke with him, he said ‘Marti, I’m very upbeat,’ “ she said.
All five of Pendergraft’s clinics will remain open while Pendergraft is in prison, Mackenzie said.
“He has an extensive corporation set up, and nothing is going to change,” she said. “He has doctors in place who have been working in the clinics a long time.”
Mackenzie is confident the appeals court will eventually vindicate Pendergraft, she said.
“I know him to be a man of the utmost integrity,” she said. “He has been, as far as I am concerned, slandered in the courtroom.”
Rogow also said he is confident Pendergraft will eventually prevail.
“I’m a believer in his case,” Rogow said. “I think there are some serious legal issues here.”
Pendergraft and Spielvogel were convicted Feb. 1, in Ocala, following a nearly month-long trial. Spielvogel began serving a 41-month sentence at a federal prison camp at Eglin Air Force Base on July 10. Spielvogel was convicted of the three charges Pendergraft was convicted of, and two additional charges of filing a false affidavit and making false statements to the FBI.
The charges against both men stemmed from comments they made during a meeting in March 1999 between Pendergraft, his then-lawyer Roy Lucas, Spielvogel and county attorney Virgil “Bill” Wright.
At that meeting, Spielvogel repeated allegations he had made in an earlier affidavit that Marion County Commission Chairman Larry Cretul had threatened him, Pendergraft and the Ocala clinic. Pendergraft said in a separate affidavit that Spielvogel had told him of those threats.
During the trial, Spielvogel admitted Cretul had never directly made such threats, and that he had had faked a telephone call in which Cretul allegedly made the remark, in Pendergraft’s presence.