(Photo: Screen Grab via Alabama 13)
The explosive and controversial arrest of popular youth pastor Matt Pitt of The Basement in Birmingham, Ala., has very little to do with an honorary sheriff's badge and a lot to do with greed, money, politics and lies, according to Pitt's lawyer and security director for The Basement.
Pitt, 30, who founded one of America's largest Christian youth ministries that is The Basement, made headlines last month after he was arrested, according to Alabama police, for allegedly impersonating a police officer for the second time since 2012. He was said to have jumped off a 45-foot cliff to escape his latest arrest.
But as Pitt sits in Alabama's Shelby County Jail, Vince Lovell, security director for The Basement, claims in an explosive half hour video posted to YouTube just over a week ago, that he believes the charges of impersonating an officer of the law were triggered by a falling out with former board members of the ministry who are angry that they were unable to profit from Pitt's work.
"Once they realized that they couldn't get anything out of it, that God was protecting it the whole way, they decided to turn against us," noted Lovell, who says he is a former sergeant in the U.S. Marines in the video. "This thing is a lot deeper than Matt Pitt with a little honorary badge…There's some financial things behind it."
In an earlier AL.com report, however, an unidentified ex-board member claimed that Pitt and his inner circle were making a mockery of God.
"They took their eyes off Jesus. I believe there were great possibilities. I believe people were helped. I never looked at Matt as a rock star. I saw an opportunity to win the lost. In the beginning Jesus was foremost... God is not going to be mocked," said the former board member.
Lovell noted in the video that: "I don't know that anybody sat around and just plotted character assassination, or plotted slander, or plotted libel," Lovell said. "Whether or not they plotted it, it happened."
He explained that he had no idea that the honorary sheriff's badge that was given to Pitt would have turned into such a "crazy fiasco;" but claims that when Pitt was given the badge he was told that if he was ever pulled over for speeding or the like, he could present the badge and it would help him.
"Was he (Pitt) told that if he was ever pulled over to hold the badge out the window, that it would help him and present the badge if he was ever pulled over for speeding or anything like that? Absolutely. Are there many of us that were witness to this conversation when he was told to do that? Absolutely," said Lovell.
He said that although he wasn't in Pitt's car the first night he was pulled over in Calera, he believes Pitt did not present the badge to officers because if he did the police would have confiscated it at that point.
On Thursday, Pitt's attorney Daniel Boman filed subpoenas in Jefferson County court seeking the details of everyone who received honorary badges issued by Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale's office, according to another AL.com report.
Boman said he believes the honorary badges were given out for political purposes and were abused. "I believe Matt Pitt obtained an honorary badge due to political contacts and the ability to deliver votes," he said.
"Anybody who gets an honorary badge is going to show it," added Boman.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Aug. 14 arrest warrant claims that on June 15, Pitt falsely pretended to be a deputy sheriff by showing a badge and "making an assertion of right in that capacity."
For a similar charge in Calera on May 12, 2012, Pitt was charged with a felony for impersonating a peace officer. Police alleged that he was flashing blue lights to pull over cars on Interstate 65. Both Lovell and Boman added context to this charge and the outcome.
Boman said Pitt had received permission from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to place blue lights inside his car for security reasons. Pitt, he explained, had received death threats.
Randy Christian, chief deputy of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office dismissed the claims in the same report, however, as a fantasy defense.
"If this is the kind of fantasy defense his attorney has dreamed up then I truly feel sorry for his client. I mean that sincerely. I didn't know you could find attorneys in dreamland. I hope they aren't expensive," said Christian.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office confirmed with Alabama 13 that they have confiscated Pitt's honorary badge and will be using it as evidence in their case against him.
Lovell, however, maintains that the charges against Pitt are bogus.
"He's (Pitt) one of the most disciplined in his pursuit for God that I've ever seen," said Lovell in the video. "It's just crazy; and we're just fed up with it. We're just fed up with seeing this man that's done nothing but positive things for the community, that's done nothing but positive things for the youth, that's helped changed many of our lives, we're just tired of people, certain people, coming against him and trying to (defame) his name, trying to bring his character into question."
Pitt will learn at a Sept. 23 hearing whether he will have the probation from the 2012 impersonation case revoked, forcing him to serve out the remainder of his original 12-month sentence while a preliminary hearing for his most recent arrest is set for Dec. 9.