By Gary Lloyd
BIRMINGHAM — The trial of youth evangelist and The Basement founder Matt Pitt continues in Jefferson County this week.
The trial began Monday and recessed Tuesday around 4:15 p.m. It is set to resume Wednesday at 9 a.m., with five witnesses left to testify for the defense. The prosecution rested its case Tuesday afternoon.
Pitt is charged with impersonating a peace officer, a felony, for an incident that happened in the Grayson Valley area June 15, 2013, when he showed the badge to two men who found a gun laying in the woods that Pitt said belonged to him.
Pitt pleaded guilty in Shelby County in 2012 when he was charged with impersonating an officer after Calera police pulled him over for allegedly flashing blue lights on Interstate 65.Pitt served about eight months in Shelby County Jail for violating probation after he was arrested in the Jefferson County case.
Most of the testimony has focused on Pitt’s honorary deputy badge.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Sharit was the first to testify Tuesday morning, and defense attorney Carmella Penn asked him to read his commission card and the oath on the back of it. She then asked Sharit to read Pitt’s commission card for his honorary badge. It had an appointment for “special deputy” from Sheriff Mike Hale, and was notarized by Hale’s wife, Diana.
There was also testimony regarding Pitt’s arrest on Aug. 20, 2013, when Pitt attempted to elude Birmingham police and toppled 10 to 15 feet down an embankment below Vulcan Park onto 20th Street. He was arrested by Birmingham police and booked at the Jefferson County Jail, where sheriff’s deputy Michael Bishop asked him who he worked for. Bishop said Pitt told him, “Mike Hale” each of the three times he asked.
Prosecutors also played an interview WVTM-TV conducted with Pitt the night of his arrest, in which Pitt shows the badge.
“They made me an officer,” Pitt said in the interview. “I have a badge.”
Pitt’s cousin Bailey Little took the stand after lunch. Little was with Pitt on June 15, 2013, the day Brandon Vessels and Brad Lunsford confronted them about a gun laying in the woods near Grayson Valley. Little said Vessels had a “large pistol” on his hip and interrogated the two.
“We felt in danger,” Little said.
Jefferson County Tax Collector J.T. Smallwood was also called to the stand. He helped Pitt get the honorary badge for recognition of his work in the community. Smallwood said the badge was for “identification purposes” to let people know he’s a good guy.
Vince Lovell, who helped with security for The Basement, was also called by the defense, and testified that Smallwood said the badge could be used to get out of traffic tickets and get through airport traffic quicker.
Adam Pullen, a real estate agent who is a Jefferson County reserve deputy, was the last defense witness called Tuesday. He said he was once arrested in Jemison for using his commission card. The case was dismissed. He said “a lot of people are confused” about the difference between a reserve deputy and an honorary deputy.
“I think they’re the same thing,” he said.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.