The following text is from a flyer distributed by The Right to Fight Defense Committee for Dr. Pendergraft at the Emergency Action for Women's Lives, April 22, 2001, in Washington, DC. You may also download a PDF version.
Convicted for Federal Extortion faces 30 years in prison and $750,000 in Fines. His "crime" was opening a clinic in a small conservative town in Florida.
At a time of intense apprehension about how much power government officials and churches will have to make their religious beliefs into law, the precedent-making trial and conviction of Dr. James Pendergraft confirms this concern is very real.
In this climate of violence against abortion providers, Dr. James Pendergraft, an African-American physician, has provided abortions for 12 years. Dr. Pendergraft, a Board Certified Ob/Gyn and High Risk Obstetrician, operates 5 full service women's health care facilities in Florida. He specializes in performing high-risk termination procedures, which only a few physicians are able to do. Dr. Pendergraft is a dedicated and respected doctor who cares for women from all over the US.
Across the country, abortion providers have been under legal, legislative, and violent physical attack. Dr. Pendergraft's case is a part of a new front of attacks where the government uses the power of their positions to concoct bogus criminal charges to prosecute and drive abortion providers out of practice.
The aggressive campaign to keep Dr. Pendergraft from opening a clinic in Ocala, Marion County, Florida, began in 1997, with a letter from the Chairman of Marion County Board of Commissioners. The letter informed Dr. Pendergraft that he was not welcome in the city of Ocala. The commissioner's letter was published in the newspaper and followed by several similar letters from prominent area church leaders and 1000's of letters from their parishioners. In 1989, the only abortion clinic in Ocala was burned to the ground and never re-opened, in an unsolved arson. Despite these roadblocks, Ocala Women's Center opened and is constantly under siege by daily protesters. The city and county government arbitrarily denied Dr. Pendergraft's request to hire off-duty police officers for security against harassment. The doctor filed a lawsuit to prevent these discriminatory refusals and to establish a buffer zone between the anti-abortion protesters and the clinic. The injunction was granted.
But local officials teamed up with the FBI to paint this civil suit as an attempt to extort money from Marion County. They spent more than two years framing an extortion case, and after repeated tries, got a federal indictment. Incredibly, Dr. Pendergraft was found guilty on Feb 1, 2001 of Federal extortion and conspiracy charges. Dr. Pendergraft will be sentenced on May 24, 2001, and could face 30 years of prison time!
The trial revealed:
This precedent-setting case has serious and wide spread policy implications for other abortion providers that go beyond the case of Dr. Pendergraft:
Although, Dr. Pendergraft's legal team is presently preparing to file an appeal, under new Federal guidelines, he could be immediately imprisoned while he awaits an appeal. His legal fees have been extraordinary, and his appeal will cost $250,000, all due upfront.
What you can do:
The Right to Fight Defense Committee for Dr. Pendergraft was formed to raise awareness and build national political and financial support for Dr. Pendergraft. We are a group of individuals, organizations, colleagues and friends of Dr. Pendergraft. We believe that it is imperative to have an aggressive campaign to educate and raise awareness about the dangers presented by this case, to develop public activism, and help build a climate of intolerance to these attacks.
For more information and to get involved:
Defense Committee: www.righttofight.org
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