1706567673 Run DMC39s Jam Master Jay was killed in an ambush out

Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay was killed in an ambush out of “greed and revenge,” prosecutor says as trial of suspected assassins begins


Published January 29, 2024, 4:39 p.m. ET

Hip-hop pioneer Jam Master Jay was executed in an ambush motivated by “greed and revenge” for drugs, federal prosecutors said Monday as the trial of the Run DMC DJ's alleged killers began.

Ronald Washington, 59, and Karl Jordan Jr., 39, are accused of shooting Jay, whose real name was Jason Mizell, at his music studio in Queens in 2002.

“It was a brutal crime,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Miranda Gonzalez said during opening statements in federal court in Brooklyn.

Washington and Jordan were arrested in 2020, with prosecutors claiming the long-unsolved shooting was in retaliation for a large, failed cocaine deal.

“The defendants had killed a world-famous musician in front of their acquaintances,” said Gonzalez, who painted a detailed portrait of the events that led to the cold-blooded attack.

“It was an ambush. An execution,” she told the jury. “And you will learn that it was motivated by greed and revenge.”

Hip-hop trio Run-DMCOpening arguments began Monday in federal court in Brooklyn in the murder trial of two men charged with the 2002 murder of Jason Mizell, better known as Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay (center). Pay per use

Mizell served as a “middleman” for cocaine shipments when his Run-DMC money began to dry up in the mid-1990s, prosecutors alleged.

“As the spotlight for Run-DMC began to fade, the money wasn’t flowing into Jason Mizell like it used to, so he turned to drugs to make money,” Gonzalez said.

Prosecutors allege Mizell made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the illegal trade. One such transaction, known as the “Baltimore Deal,” allegedly involved the transportation of $200,000 worth of drugs from New York City to Washington, DC

But prosecutors said the 10-kilogram Coke deal “didn't go as planned.”

The distributor allegedly did not want to work with Washington, a childhood friend of Mizell's, which resulted in him being cut out of the deal. It also meant that Jordan, Mizell's godson, would lose his share of the revenue that Washington had expected.

It was that little thing that led the men to ambush and kill Mizell, prosecutors allege.

On the night of the murder, Mizell sat on a couch playing video games in his 24-hour studio on Merrick Boulevard. Gonzalez said the famous DJ had a .380-caliber handgun on the armrest of the sofa, fearing for his safety after a visit from Washington earlier in the day.

“People close to Jason will tell you that he seemed different in the days leading up to his murder,” she told the jury.

According to the allegations, 49-year-old Jay Bryant, who was charged separately for his role in the murder, let Jordan and Washington into the studio through a back entrance on the fire escape.

Mizell stood up as he saw Jordan enter the studio. Prosecutors said he then “shot him in the head with a .40 caliber bullet, killing him instantly.”

Gonzalez noted that the fatal shot was fired from such close range that it “burned the hair and skin of his head.”

Prosecutors also noted Jordan's callous indifference to the murder, claiming he later made statements: “If Jason Mizell were still alive, [I] would kill him again.”

Three women arrive at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.The defendants' relatives, Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr., went to the courthouse to show their support. Gregory P. Mango

Defense lawyers briefly addressed the court, protesting their clients' innocence and expressing doubts about the credibility of eyewitness testimony about the more than 20-year-old crime.

“Karl Jordan Jr. did not kill Jason Mizell,” said Jordan’s attorney, John Diaz.

“This entire case is about 10 seconds ago, 21 years ago — the blink of an eye, a generation ago,” said Ezra Spilke, Washington’s attorney.

Spilke went on to say that Washington and Mizell were like family, acknowledging that his client at the time was an alcoholic who frequently sat together on the pioneering hip-hop DJ's couch.

“If that’s the case, then why are you biting the hand that feeds you – why are you killing the only person you depend on?”

Also testifying in court today was Detective James Lusk, who now works in the Queens District Attorney's Office but was based in the 103rd Precinct at the time of the murder.

Lusk testified that in the moments that followed, Randy Allen, a business associate of Mizell's who was present at the shooting, sprinted on foot across the large city parking lot that separated the studio from the precinct to report the crime.

When Lusk arrived at the studio about a minute later, he found Mizell lifeless, “lying on the floor” in a huge pool of blood, and Allen's sister Lydia Hyde, who identified the shooter to police nine months after the crime, “crying hysterically.” ”

Jurors were then shown photos from the crime scene, including bloodied images of Mizell's body, wearing white socks and a beige sweater, lying on the floor next to the couch with a PlayStation 2 video game controller nearby.

Under cross-examination, Michael Houston, one of Jordan's attorneys, questioned the detective about why they did not photograph the fire escape through which Jordan and Washington entered the studio in 2002.

Lusk said he didn't know if any photos were taken at the time.

Washington attorney Jacqueline Cistaro questioned why none of the five people who were in the studio at the time of the murder called 911.

The detective said, “I don't remember anyone calling 911,” but later pointed out that it probably would have been quicker for Allen to run to the station than to call for help.

Proudly hailing from Hollis, Queens, Run-DMC was a groundbreaking rap trio most credited with bringing hip-hop to a mainstream audience with hits like “It's Tricky” and “My Adidas.” .

In contrast to some other artist colleagues, Run-DMC avoided the violence and criminality of street life in both their lyrics and their political activities.

The group famously led an anti-drug drive in 1987, held voter registration drives at concerts and spoke out strongly against gang violence in Los Angeles.

They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

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