By Gary Lloyd
COLUMBIANA — Youth evangelist and The Basement founder Matt Pitt will remain in Shelby County Jail for the next 10 months as part of his probation that was revoked this morning by Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Dan Reeves.
The probation revocation stems from a June 15 incident in Grayson Valley in which Pitt allegedly identified himself as part of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Pitt was charged with impersonating a peace officer. He was charged last year in Shelby County with the same offense.
Pitt’s attorney, Daniel Boman, said Pitt has served roughly 60 days in the Shelby County Jail. Boman called the probation revocation an “absolutely bad decision.”
Boman said he plans to appeal the decision. He has 42 days to do so. There is a possibility the case could go to a federal level, Boman said. He declined to provide details on the federal court possibility, saying it was something he has to research.
Pitt’s father, Larry Pitt, said after the hearing that he was shocked by the outcome.
“It’s just wrong,” he said. “I want my son out.”
Pitt’s mother, Missy Pitt, said her son has never tried to harm anyone.
“It’s just a sad day,” she said.
During witness testimony, Brandon Vessels, who lives in Grayson Valley where the June incident allegedly occurred, said he and his wife returned home from their honeymoon in May to find a white Acura Integra parked near their townhome. Vessels testified that he witness a “glass pipe glowing” inside the car, which was occupied by four young adult males. When Vessels confronted the vehicle, it sped off. Later that night, Vessels said, he called police to report four-wheelers riding through the nearby woods in the early morning hours.
On June 15, Vessels witnessed a four-wheeler near his home in the nearby woods and when he walked about five feet into the woods, he witnessed an open rifle bag with the butt of a rifle showing. Vessels, who has military experience as a military police officer, left the rifle and told his wife to call police, he testified. He and a neighbor waited near the rifle when two four-wheelers rode up. Vessels testified that one of the men on a four-wheeler identified himself as Matt Pitt. Vessels testified that Pitt presented a badge, took the rifle and drove off.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Sharit, who works with the Crimes Against Persons Unit, testified that he tried to contact Pitt for almost four weeks after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He testified that he contacted him July 22-26, July 29-31, Aug. 5-9 and Aug. 12-14. Vessels had identified Pitt from a lineup on July 22, Sharit testified.
Sharit testified that he believed Pitt was intoxicated during an interview with NBC 13 on Aug. 20. Sharit did not see Pitt in person that night, saying he saw most of the video. Birmingham police officer Joel Smith was a responding officer Aug. 20, the night Pitt tumbled down Red Mountain in an attempt to run away from police. Smith testified that three officers got Pitt on the ground after he tried to run. Smith testified that the only noticeable injury Pitt had sustained was a laceration to his head. He testified that he didn’t smell alcohol or look into Pitt’s eyes for signs of possible impairment.
Officer Elizabeth Robertson, a booking deputy at Jefferson County Jail, testified that Pitt identified himself to another deputy while being booked as working for Mike Hale. He was asked three times by that deputy who he worked for and each time responded, “Mike Hale.” Robertson said that when she asked Pitt who he worked for, he said that he had a ministry called The Basement.
Shelby County District Attorney Robert Owens said in closing that Pitt has “lost touch” with his ministry, saying he has gotten bigger than his message. He then requested a full revocation of Pitt’s probation.
Boman, in closing, said Pitt never responded to calls from the sheriff’s office in July and August because he was on his honeymoon in Cancun. He said he believes the whole situation has been “blown out of proportion.”
Outside the Shelby County Courthouse after the hearing, Boman said that Pitt is “not a bad guy” and “certainly not a felon.” He said Pitt’s demeanor was “down,” that he didn’t understand why what he’s allegedly done equates to 10 more months in jail.
When asked about the possibility of drugs being in Pitt’s system the night he was apprehended, Boman said Pitt had three prescription drugs in his system: Adderall, Lortab for his injuries sustained in the fall down Red Mountain and a prescription sleeping drug. He said there was no cocaine or heroin or any illegal substance in Pitt’s system.
Missy Pitt, when asked about the future of The Basement ministry after the hearing, said her son is a “phenomenal leader” who has helped raise leaders. The ministry will continue on, she said.
“You can’t stop the gospel,” she said, and those who came in #FreePitt T-shirts applauded.