Jermay Antonio Smith Jr. ran with a pistol in his hand through the copse of trees, away from an ambush at the Southwyck Hills Apartments, close to three years ago.
Pursued by police officers after a fatal shooting, Smith tripped through the woods — accidentally squeezing off a round from the Glock pistol he carried as he fell — on his way to the safety of an acquaintance’s home, where he changed clothes and stepped back out into the neighborhood. But Friday he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy in Roanoke’s federal courthouse, acknowledging his membership in a gang and his role in the shooting.
Smith is the ninth defendant to plead guilty in the federal court cases against Danville’s Milla Bloods and Rollin 60s Crips. Twelve of the total 21 indicted have not pleaded guilty. Smith could face as much as life in prison — without parole — and hefty fines for playing a role in multiple gang-related shootings in 2016, including the killing of Christopher Lamont Motley at the Southwyck Hills Apartments ambush.
Smith was initiated into the Milla Bloods, court documents state, with with a 21-second beating administered by other alleged members of the gang, commonly called a “beat-in.” From that day in February 2016, Smith was part of the Millas — a gang affiliated with the New York Bloods Nation, according to court documents, and that same month, he became a participant in the gang war between the Millas and the rival Bloods affiliate known as the Billys.
According to court documents, Billys member Tyliek Conway was driving through the home turf of the Millas and Rollin 60s — the neighborhoods south and east of Green Street — in February, and happened upon Smith and some other Millas members. When he saw them, he started shooting.
“In what was perceived as a sign of disrespect, Conway saw Smith and other members of the Millas and Rollin 60s Crips and began firing on them,” one document states.
The document does not mention if anyone was hit, but it accounts for the following day when Smith and others spotted Conway’s car outside a house in that neighborhood, known as the 800 neighborhood. When the group of four accused and admitted Millas and Rollin 60s saw Conway appear in a window, they opened fire, riddling the house with bullets but missing their target.
“This shooting at Conway was in retaliation for his having shot at them the day before,” the document states, “and because Conway’s presence in the ‘800’ was perceived as disrespecting the Millas.”
Months later, Smith attended a meeting directly preceding Motley’s death Aug 20, 2016, between the Rollin 60s and Millas. There, the two gangs discussed working together against their common enemy, the Billys, and agreed to cooperate. By then, tensions between both sides were at a high, multiple federal plea agreements illustrate.
“During this period, Smith understood that [the Billy’s leader] and other Billys were to be killed on sight,” the document states.
Before Motley’s shooting, accused members of both gangs called the Billys members and goaded them into a fight. Then, on the evening of Aug. 20, a white van pulled into the parking lot of the Southwyck Hills Apartments, and accused members of the Rollin 60s and Millas fanned out throughout the complex and opened fire on it from multiple directions. That’s when Motley, a passenger, was struck and killed, the document states.
The accused shooters scattered, driving and running away. Smith and co-defendant Kanas Lamont’e Trent, the document states, ran through the woods to escape. Trent’s girlfriend later picked them up and took them back to his apartment, where they changed clothes.
Smith’s plea leaves him eligible to provide prosecutors with what documents term “substantial assistance,” which could greatly reduce the amount of prison time he could serve. Legal experts have told the Danville Register & Bee the definition of substantial assistance varies by jurisdiction and prosecutor, but the surest way to reduce a defendant’s sentence is to testify on behalf of a prosecution.
“If I comply with my obligations under the plea agreement, the United States will move, at sentencing, that I be dismissed as a defendant in any remaining counts,” the plea agreement states. But the document also notes the judge has ultimate authority in deciding a defendant’s sentence, including any reduction in prison time.
The four remaining defendants in the Millas case will go to trial in January. The eight remaining defendants in the Rollin 60s case will go to trial in October of this year. Both cases are expected to take seven weeks.
Whitlow writes for the Register & Bee. Contact him at (434) 791-7983.