We have the answer to that question, and it means "the rest of the story" on the Pitt trial is not behind us. In fact, sources tell Legal Schnauzer, the Matt Pitt trial was not about the law at all--it was clear from the outset that he did not impersonate a peace officer. But Pitt did anger powerful elitist forces in Alabama by resisting their efforts to more or less take over The Basement ministry he founded. That largely is the reason Pitt has been beset by legal problems for most of the past two years.
We also now have added evidence that these thuggish forces will subvert the "justice system" to attack those who refuse to do their bidding. That's exactly what happened to Matt Pitt, that's the ugly story behind his prosecution.
Who makes up these forces? They are individuals aligned with University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr. and former Governor Bob Riley. They appear to have race-based attitudes that are right out of the 1930s. And when someone fails to abide their demands, they quickly turn into bullies. Anyone familiar with how the Bryant and Riley factions tend to operate should not be surprised by any of this.
Why would Bryant Jr. and Riley try to wrest control of The Basement ministry from its founder? We have a theory on that, and we will touch on it in a moment.
First, let's return to our post from yesterday, showing that Tuscaloosa-based Bryant Bank (of which Bryant Jr. is chairman) has a dismal record when it comes to providing mortgage loans to Alabama's large black population. As for Riley, he has longstanding ties to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama, a secret society that--at last report--was governed by documents that forbid membership to "negroes or other inferior races."
Former Birmingham radio hosts Russ and Dee Fine were fired from their on-air gig not long after reporting on Riley's ties to a Masons sect that appears to have racist origins. The axing of Russ and Dee Fine does not surprise me, given that overwhelming evidence indicates Riley acolytes caused me to be fired at UAB for reporting on this blog about the unlawful acts of wife-beating federal judge Mark Fuller in the Don Siegelman case.
(Ironically, Russ Fine also works at UAB, as a tenured professor of medicine. Because of the safety net tenure provides, Fine was safe in his full-time job. That meant the Rileys could only cheat him out of his part-time radio gig.)
Many Alabamians undoubtedly remember Bob Riley's Mafioso-like threat to anyone who might "get too close to the families," a performance that was caught on video in 2010. (See video at the end of this post.)
Matt Pitt certainly knows what it's like to run afoul of the Bryant and Riley thugs. As we reported in a post last week, just as the Pitt case was going to a jury:
Pitt's troubles with law enforcement began when he refused to do the bidding of conservative political/corporate forces who wanted to use his ministry (The Basement) for their own purposes, sources tell Legal Schnauzer. Those forces allegedly include former Governor Bob Riley and University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr. Our sources say Pitt never would have been prosecuted if he had allowed his ministry to be used for the political and financial interests of others. They also say Pitt has made enemies from his desire to build a ministry that reaches across racial boundaries.
What about specifics? We provided them:
What led to Matt Pitt's legal problems? Our sources point to three key events:
(1) Political figures, apparently with ties to Riley and Bryant, encouraged Pitt to use The Basement to endorse a slate of white, conservative political candidates;
(2) Business figures encouraged Pitt to do the ministry's banking with Bryant Bank;
(3) Pitt and a few associates were invited to attend a University of Alabama football game and sit in Bryant's private box. During the game, a Bryant crony was heard to say, after looking out over the packed stadium, "Can you imagine this many people pay us to watch n-----s beat up on each other?"
Pitt rebuffed the first two entreaties and was so disgusted by No. 3 that he decided to have nothing to do with Paul Bryant Jr. or his bank.
Before long, Pitt was in trouble with the law because of an honorary sheriff's badge that he never asked for--Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale, an ally of Rob Riley (the former governor's son), gave it to him.
Imagine being a devoted University of Alabama football fan and going to Bryant-Denny Stadium to sit in the regular seats and watch your beloved Crimson Tide play. Then, imagine that up in Paul Bryant Jr.'s box, one of his cronies is making a statement like this:
Can you imagine this many people pay us to watch n-----s beat up on each other?
Would that make you want to vomit, at least a little bit? Would you want to vomit a bit more when you learn that Bryant Bank pretty much excludes blacks from its lending practices? Would Bob Riley's ties to a racist secret society--and his threatening words in the video below--make you want to vomit in projectile fashion?
|Paul Bryant Jr.|
While Republicans have come to dominate statewide offices in Alabama, that does not apply in the state's largest metropolitan area. Democrats have dominated Jeffco judicial races lately, and those Democrats increasingly have dark skin. In fact, the presiding judge in the county, Houston Brown, is black. In recent years, a number of well-funded Republicans, with support from elite law firms, have lost to relatively unknown black, Democratic challengers.
That probably displeases Bryant, and it almost certainly displeases Riley--whose son heads up the white suburban Riley Jackson law firm, and whose son-in-law is a partner at the corporate, right-leaning Bradley Arant. In the 2012 elections, the Riley Jackson firm provided financial support to white Republican Pat Thetford, who lost by about 17,000 votes to black Democrat Carole Smitherman. In fact, Democrats won every judicial race on the ballot--by margins ranging from roughly 5 percent to almost 14 percent. In other words, none of the races was particularly close, and judges in Alabama's most populous county increasingly have dark skin.
How can conservative forces fight such an unpleasant trend? Why, by intruding on Matt Pitt's ministry and trying to convince its thousands of potential young voters to support white, conservative candidates--even though Pitt has stated a number of times that he intends to build an inclusive ministry that crosses racial, denominational, and political boundaries.
Has Alabama come a long way from the days when Martin Luther King wrote his Letter From the Birmingham Jail? The answer is yes. With people like Bryant Jr. and Bob Riley still in positions of influence, does Alabama have a long way to go? The answer to that question also is yes.
How far does Alabama have to go? To help answer that question, we invite you to view the video of Bob Riley below, and then read Letter From the Birmingham Jail, below that. Are Bob Riley, and people like him, the ones to move Alabama forward--to help the state, and Birmingham, fulfill their massive untapped potential? I think the answer, to most reasonably objective minds, will be clear.
I hope Matt Pitt doesn't change the direction of the basement. He's reaching young people in a way that most churches do not.
Alabama: The place where no good deed goes unpunished.
Why the vitriol and contempt for Matt Pitt? To read the comments about him at al.com is deeply disturbing. This young man is successful at something good. Why don't we support him?
Bryant Bank is the last place I would put my money, at least if I wanted to keep it.
What if Matt Pitt caved in to their demands at the last minute, and that's why he was found not guilty?
It will be interesting to see if The Basement suddenly starts endorsing the Riley/Bryant slate of candidates.
I didn't realize Dems had been beating GOP butt in Jeffco judicial races. I imagine that does raise alarms out in the burbs.
Hmmm . . . I hadn't thought of that possibility, @11:44, but you raise an interesting scenario. I know Matt Pitt was adamant about not caving in, but when you are facing a possible 10 years in prison and the court starts doing funky things (like Judge Nail changing his mind on evidence of "prior wrongs") I could see how one might reconsider.
The whole proceeding, to me, smells of blackmail, extortion, and probably more crimes I can't think of at the moment.
I don't buy the conspiracy theory you put forth. Matt broke the law in 2012 then violated his probation when he ran from law enforcement.
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