A Leading African-American Abortion Doctor Is Sentenced to Almost 5 Years in Prison in Analleged Extortion Case

May 29, 2001

Last week in Ocala, Florida, a Florida doctor and abortion services provider, James Scott Pendergraft was sentencedto nearly four years in prison after being convicted in February of attempted extortion, conspiracy and mail fraud bythe US Government. In what reproductive rights activists are calling an unprecedented attack on an abortion providerthrough criminal justice system, local officials in Ocala collaborated with federal prosecutors to shut downPendergraft on the grounds that he conspired with a colleague to extort money from the government. AnAfrican-American reproductive services provider who owns five Florida clinics, Pendergraft had faced a maximumsentence of 30 years in jail, $750,000 in fines and the loss of his medical license.

The jury which convicted Pendergraft had only one African American, and jurors’ views on religion or abortion in thisdeeply conservative part of Florida were deemed by the judge to be irrelevant in his case. This begs the question:was it possible for Pendergraft to get a fair trial, one which had nothing to do with abortion, in a city where thecommunity’s last abortion clinic was burned to the ground in 1989?


  • Miranda Kennedy, freelance journalist who will be publishing a story about the Pendergraft case in anupcoming edition of the Nation.
  • Tracy Stearn, Refuse and Resist!, she helped to organize a campaign to support Dr. Pendergraft and waspresent during his trial.

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