When he was a toddler, less than two years old, Dorian Finney-Smith lost his father. Elbert Smith Jr. did not die. Instead, he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 44 years in a Virginia prison. Now, because of his former team’s help, the two will finally be re-united. Last Wednesday, in a unanimous vote, the Virginia Parole Board granted Elbert Smith Jr. his freedom with conditions.
“My whole family is in tears,” Finney-Smith told The Dallas Morning News shortly after learning of the board’s vote. “It hasn’t set in; probably won’t until I see him out. I haven’t touched my dad since … ever.”
This past week, Brad Townsend of the News chronicled the journey the Smith family has taken, with the aid of the Mavericks organization ... even though DFS was traded from Dallas to Brooklyn on February 6, part of the Kyrie Irving trade. In the story, Townsend wrote about how the Mavericks organization has been helping move Elbert Smith’s case through the judicial process and did not let up even though Dorian Finney-Smith was playing 1,300 miles away for another team.
At issue was not Elbert Smith’s guilt or innocence in a Jan. 25, 1995 slaying, but whether the board deemed his prison time and rehabilitation to be sufficient — and whether Dorian’s plans to help Elbert return to society are adequate safeguards for the community. For his conditional release, which is expected to occur in the next few weeks, Elbert Smith largely can thank Dorian, Mark Cuban Companies chief of staff Jason Lutin and former Virginia attorney general Jerry Kilgore.
“I’m glad we were able to help. We are indescribably grateful to Mr. Kilgore and happy for Doe Doe (Finney-Smith’s nickname) and his father. Doe is a special guy. He deserves it,” Cuban said.
Not only did Cuban and the Mavs help the Smith family navigate the labyrinth that is the criminal justice system, they helped connect him with Kilgore, a lawyer who had been Virginia’s attorney general, and even provided written testimony from Cuban, GM Nico Harrison and former coach Rick Carlisle about Finney-Smith’s character, critical to the process because DFS will be required to help guide his father’s post-prison life.
“In basketball, players don’t usually bring these things out into the open, but the Mavericks are different in the way they relate to the athlete. I appreciate everything you did behind closed doors. I will always have love for Dallas and the organization,“ the 30-year-old Finney-Smith told the Morning News.
As Townsend writes, the Mavs had no obligation to help Finney-Smith after his seven-season tenure with the Mavs ended on February 6, but they kept helping out through Wednesday’s parole board vote.
The process started nearly three years ago, when Finney-Smith explained his father’s circumstances to Jason Lutin, chief of staff for Cuban’s companies and like DFS a University of Florida graduate who also holds a law degree from that school. Earlier, Finney-Smith had confided in a Mavs assistant, Jamahl Mosely, who advised him to speak directly with Cuban. Cuban put him in touch with Lutin.
As Townsend wrote:
Lutin spent months gathering background about the case and helping Dorian explore legal and political avenues. They turned to Kilgore, Virginia’s 2005 Republican nominee for governor and a partner with the law firm Cozen O’Connor. He met with Elbert Smith in Virginia’s Wallens Ridge supermax prison and offered to represent him pro bono. That was more than two years ago. In Virginia and other case-backlogged states, it takes months and sometimes years for prisoners to have their parole cases considered.
“Lutin’s the GOAT; he’s that dude,” said Finney-Smith. “Jason told me, ‘You’re always family’ and he backed it up, for sure. He could have put it on the back burner, especially after I got traded.”
Elbert Smith’s parole hearing occurred while Smith was still a Maverick. In fact, he traveled to Virginia in between games for the hearing, Townsend reported.
“In basketball, players don’t usually bring up stuff like this, but the Mavericks are different as far as relationships,” Finney-Smith said. “Now I had to talk to five people I don’t know about things that were very personal to me, but I could feel the support in the room.”
Smith had been one of two men who had been charged with murdering a Virginia man after a dispute over a debt led to a gun fight. The other man pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to five years in prison. Elbert Smith was urged by his lawyer to go to trial. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and intentional battery and sentenced to 44 years in state prison. Without the successful parole hearing, Elbert Smith wouldn’t have been eligible for release until 2039 when he would be 68 years old.
The process did not have any guarantee of success. Virginia has rigid standards for parole. As the Morning News noted, before Wednesday, the board had granted parole in only 23 of 1,255 cases it had considered in 2023.
“I will always have love for Dallas and the organization,“ concluded Finney-Smith.
- How Mavericks helped Dorian Finney-Smith secure father’s parole after 29 years in prison - Brad Townsend - Dallas Morning News