Bail denied for former D1 basketball player charged in killing of Lul Jody

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A homegrown basketball ace and former UNLV forward who was described by the Las Vegas Sun as a “top-tier athlete” will be held without bail in the killing of 19-year-old rapper Lul Jody, a local judge ruled last month.

Anthony Smith, charged with one count of murder and four counts of drive-by shooting, was arrested with another man in January following an 18-month probe into the 2020 killing of Jody, whose real name was Joseph Almanza, at a birthday party in the 2900 block of Gardendale Road. The 26-year-old JUCO transfer averaged 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in 2017 before being suspended indefinitely by then-head coach Marvin Menzies for an unknown violation of team rules. He never returned to play for the team.

According to court papers, officers responded to 2900 Gardendale after three consecutive Shot Spotter alerts went off in the middle of the night. First eight rounds, then 23, then 12. Several victims were found lying in the street suffering from gunshot wounds to areas including the face, thigh, ankle, and leg. Almanza was found unresponsive on the ground with a gunshot wound to the chest and later died.

A witness in the area told police she saw a young Black man in a gray hoodie lean out of the rear window of a Nissan Altima and fire several times at the group before driving off with a bullet hole through the back windshield. That man, officials say, was Smith.

Moments before the shooting, Smith allegedly stopped and talked car-to-car with a black Chevy Malibu. Brown, prosecutors say, owns a “very similar” car with a “distinctive strip of paper” taped to the inner windshield. He’s been pulled over in it twice.

Brown and others in the area of the homicide departed to Seavey Circle following the shooting. DNA matching the 22-year-old was found on a laser sight found in the street after the shooting.

During the one-and-a-half year long investigation into the killing, investigators filed several search warrants for multiple cell phones, social media accounts, and call records that allegedly placed Brown and Smith together at 2900 Gardendale during the same time as the homicide.

Authorities allegedly found a photo of Smith in a vehicle with an interior that “looked similar” to the interior of the Nissan Altima, allegedly rented by Smith’s girlfriend, with a caption titled “lookin!!” from the day of the killings. A photo was also recovered showing Smith wearing a “Murdagang” t-shirt, which authorities say denotes membership and recognition in the Oak Park Bloods.

A message, unsent the day of the homicide, said “if anything happens to me I love y’all keya!!”

Prosecutors say both men are validated members of the Oak Park Bloods. Deputy District Attorney Megan Eixenberger wrote in court filings that several of the victims in the case were associated with G-Mobb, the Meadowview Bloods, and Guttah Gas – all of which are rivals of OPB.

Smith was arrested in Long Beach and told police he moved there to get “a change of scenery.” Brown was arrested in Henderson, Nevada, and authorities found a Glock handgun following a search of his house.

At a hearing last month, Smith’s lawyer, Alan Donato, asked Judge Michael Savage to set his client’s bail at $1 Million with a GPS restriction, pointing to Smith’s connection to his family as well as several character letters submitted to the court as mitigating factors.

The letters, sent by figures such as Smith’s mother, a former coach, and several close friends, described the man as a respectful friend and engaged coworker. They recalled times where Smith helped care for his sick grandfather and showed a “loving and caring heart.”

Viktor Patino, one of Smith’s old coaches, said the loss of his grandfather “absolutely devastated” him and said he was “the type of athlete who either thrived or did not do well under coaches” depending on how well they got along.

“When Anthony arrived at [UNLV], Anthony quickly became a fan favorite for his efforts such as diving onto the hardwood or into the stands to save loose balls for the team,” he wrote. “That UNLV team was on the brink of being ranked top 25 in the country, but the team’s chemistry fell apart by the second half. I remember the talks we had when Anthony felt the head coach did not care for him as much as the other players.”

Patino said he “became concerned” when he learned Anthony had dropped out of college to pursue a rap career, fearing it would send him down the wrong path.

“I feel that most rap music has a negative influence on people, and a certain negative image is glorified,” Patino wrote. “While the rap path must have seemed ‘exciting’ as a young man, I was concerned his potential to mature and contribute to society as a good young man would be diminished.”

Smith’s mother echoed Patino’s concern surrounding rap music, but, like the former coach, ultimately believes her son is innocent.

“I believe Anthony is innocent,” she wrote. “Yes, he got derailed and made some mistakes, but he is not guilty of any of these charges.”

DDA Samuel Alexander said in court that Smith had changed his phone numbers and moved to LA in an effort to dodge homicide investigators. Judge Savage would deny Donato’s motion for $1 Million bail, ordering Smith to be held through trial.

“It would be hard to come up with another scenario where a single person would not pose a greater danger to public safety,” Savage said. “Shooting multiple rounds — I don’t know if they have them all counted, but perhaps two dozen is the ballpark rounds — from a car into a crowd of birthday partygoers on a public street is simply the definition of massive public risk.”

“There is no appropriate bail in a case where I would presume that a person is guilty of, at a minimum, aiding and abetting a drive-by spree shooting where five citizens end up getting shot, one killed,” he continued. “The bail as currently set is, in my view, clearly and obviously appropriate. That’s where it is going to stay.”

Bail review for Murdagang JuJu was pushed back to June last week. Court will resume next month when prosecutors and lawyers for Smith convene to argue a motion for release of records.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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