By Gary Lloyd
BIRMINGHAM — A Jefferson County judge today took witness testimony in the impersonating an officer case of Matt Pitt under advisement.
There is no timetable on a decision on whether or not District Court Judge Katrina Ross could send the case to a grand jury.
During the nearly two-hour preliminary hearing that was held to determine if there was probable cause to send the case for a grand jury to review, Pitt’s cousin, Bailey Little, testified that Pitt, the founder of The Basement ministry, was trying to show he was a “good guy,” not a law enforcement officer, when he presented a Jefferson County honorary sheriff’s badge to two Grayson Valley residents June 15.
On June 15, Pitt and Little were confronted in a wooded area near Falling Creek Lane in Grayson Valley by two residents, Brandon Vessels and Brad Lunsford, who had found what they believed to be a rifle about 50 feet into the wooded area near their town homes.
Pitt and Little left on a four-wheeler with the rifle after Pitt showed his honorary badge and told Vessels and Lunsford to contact Randy Schlitz with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Little testified that Pitt only showed the badge after the two men kept questioning them about the rifle. Little said the gun was a BB gun. Little testified that he and Pitt had been hanging out in a vehicle near Vessels’ and Lusnford’s homes for about 30 to 45 minutes, with music playing while the windows were rolled up, before going into the woods to retrieve two four-wheelers that had been left in the woods the night before.
Little said the BB gun had been left in the wooded area because he had killed a snake with it a few days earlier. Little said that only after Vessels and Lunsford continued questioning them about the gun did Pitt pull out the honorary badge and tell them to call Schlitz. Little said he believed the two men thought he and Pitt “were up to no good.”
Little said that one of the men remembered Pitt getting into trouble the year before on an impersonating a peace officer charge, the charge in Shelby County. Pitt, Little said, told the man not to twist his intentions around, that he was just trying to show his character.
Little said he had not tried to get in touch with investigators about his version of the June 15 event. He also said no investigators contacted him and that he would “have loved to” tell his side at a Shelby County hearing in October.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Sharit, who testified in Shelby County in October, testified again Monday, essentially telling the same things he told two months ago.
Lunsford testified Monday that he had seen an unfamiliar SUV parked in front of his home, saying the vehicle stayed there nearly two hours with loud music coming from inside. He said that a man got out of the SUV and went into the woods.
When Vessels and Lunsford, both with handguns, walked into the woods and saw what they believed to be a rifle laying halfway in its case covered by a few leaves, Pitt and Little rode up on a four-wheeler and attempted to explain why they left the gun there, Lunsford said. Lunsford said Pitt was acting “erratic,” speaking loudly, quickly and gesturing in animated ways. After Pitt presented the badge, Pitt and Little left with the gun, Lunsford testified. Lunsford said there was “no clear understanding” of why the gun was there.
Pitt’s defense attorney, Carmella Penn, had subpoenaed eight people to testify Monday, including Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale and Jefferson County Tax Collector J.T. Smallwood, about how Pitt had been given the honorary badge. Ross, however, denied the request for Hale and Smallwood to testify.
In closing, prosecutor Patrick Lamb said Little was “biased” toward Pitt. Penn argued that Pitt had every right to go into the woods and retrieve the gun. She said Pitt did nothing to suggest he presented himself as a law enforcement officer.
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.