February 3, 2001
volume 12, no. 34

Abortionist Convicted of False Bomb Threat Claims

    OCALA, Florida, Feb. 2, 01 ( - An abortionist was convicted on Thursday of trying to extort millions of dollars from a Florida county after he made false claims that a county official made bomb threats and used intimidation tactics.

    James Scott Pendergraft, the owner of several abortion clinics, was found guilty in federal court on all charges, including conspiracy, mail fraud, and attempted extortion, and faces up to 30 years in prison. His real estate partner, Michael Spielvogel, was convicted of the same charges, plus lying to the FBI and filing a false statement. He could get 40 years. No sentencing date was set.

    "I'm disappointed in the justice system as far as saying that I'm guilty," said Pendergraft, promising to keep his clinics open. "But I will continue to fight that and in the interim I will take care of women in their most difficult time."

    The men were accused of lying in affidavits in an effort to extort a big settlement from Marion County in exchange for dropping a lawsuit. The lawsuit claimed the county and the city of Ocala weren't allowing off-duty police officers to work security details at Pendergraft's clinic.

    Prosecutors said Spielvogel claimed county Commissioner Larry Cretul told him it was not a matter of "if" but "when" Pendergraft's clinic would be bombed. During the trial Spielvogel admitted the he lied about the claim and misled Pendergraft into thinking it was real.

    At a meeting with a county attorney, Pendergraft also threatened to bankrupt the county by seeking $100 million in damages.

February 3, 2001
volume 12, no. 34
USA News
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