We here at New Times love Pastor Vincent Spann, drill sergeant of a Liberty City recovering-addict boot camp and subject of our January feature story "Holy Hustler." For all of his shortcomings -- most notably an allergic distaste for paying his bills -- he seems to be a true savior to people who have no one else. But sometimes it sure seems like the pastor gets himself in trouble with some of his outrageous declarations.
In 2007, Spann was convicted of felony grand theft for charging a devout Miami Gardens couple for house repair work, having his rehabbing lackeys perform the labor and leaving the home in much worse shape than before they began -- all without a proper license. In reporting New Times' original story, we followed Spann to a court date downtown. He was in danger of violating his probation by falling behind on $11,000 restitution due his victims, Fannie and Alton Lindsey.
The court date was really supposed to be only a stern reminder that repayment was a condition of his release. But Spann shot himself in the foot with a oath he made to Judge William Thomas:
The consummate showman does the judge one better, promising him he will have it squared away within three months.
"That's how I am," he says simply as he strides back onto the
street, banishing bewilderment as to why he would make such a pledge.
"Besides, if I don't pay it in three months, I'll still have until
Spann doesn't believe he'll be sent to jail. After all, he's doing
God's work. The judge, he says, set the "stage for a miracle."
The miracle never occured -- and it turns out that judges remembers when promises are made in court.
Fannie says that since that day, December 29, 2008, she's received $288 -- a far cry from the more than $7,000 balance she's still owed. And on July 29, Spann was ordered into court again. This time, he answered to Judge Sarah I. Zabel, who's known for a tough and demanding demeanor on the bench.
Once again, Spann vowed to complete the payments months ahead of his March 2010 deadline -- and this time, the judge made him repeat his promise. "He said he'd have it paid in three months," Fannie says, "and the judge said, 'Are you promising you're going to pay the entire $7,095 in three months?' He said, 'Yes, ma'am.' She told him: 'I'll be monitoring you.' "
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Reached by phone, Spann confirms that's how it went down, adding, "Of course I'm going to make the payments. It's an opportunity to get this whole thing behind me."
His phone then disconnected, and he didn't answer further calls.
One grave sign of trouble: Spann told the judge he'll get the money from a deal he's making with the county to rehouse the Julia Tuttle sex offender colony in an industrial-zoned warehouse, his half-baked plan we wrote about in April. Commissioner Dorrin Rolle, whom Spann says he's working with, hasn't returned our calls seeking comment on whether he's actually behind this plan. But let's cut the shit here: Any sane person knows that ain't happening.
The "monitoring" begins August 27, when the pastor is due back in court to show the progress of his restitution. Spann going to prison would be a tragedy, and not just for his sake. He's got about 100 recovering addicts in his charge who would be completely lost -- and homeless -- without him.