Central Florida abortion provider Dr. James Pendergraft has been convicted in federal court of trying to extort millions of dollars from Marion County.
Pendergraft, who owns five Florida abortion clinics, including two in Orlando, was found guilty based on comments he made while suing the county for not adequately protecting his newest clinic in Ocala [Harasser or harassed?, Dec. 28, 2000]. The charges against Pendergraft and his consultant Michael Spielvogel stemmed from their attempt to get a big settlement in exchange for dropping their suit.
Spielvogel had claimed that county Commissioner Larry Cretul made threatening remarks, but Spielvogel admitted on the witness stand that he made up the conversation.
In 1996 Pendergraft successfully sued the city of Orlando after it tried to block a clinic here. His supporters maintained that the recent case was really about abortion, not extortion. The county's dislike of the clinic was strong: County officials sent Pendergraft a letter in 1998 asking him not to open a clinic in Ocala.
Pendergraft and Spielvogel face up to 30 and 40 years in prison.