Two suspects have been indicted in the 2002 killing of hip hop artist Jam Master Jay, which until now had been one of New York City’s most notorious unsolved murders.
Ronald ‘Tinard’ Washington and Karl ‘Lil D’ Jordan are facing charges of murder in a drug related homicide, New York federal prosecutors said Monday.
Jason ‘Jay’ Mizell, known professionally as Jam Master Jay, was shot dead at his recording studio in Hollis, Queens, on October 30, 2002.
Prosecutors now say that Mizell, 37, was killed in a drug-deal-gone-wrong.
‘Primarily this is a case about a murder which for nearly two decades had gone unanswered,’ Seth DuCharme, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said at a press conference.
‘Today we begin to answer the question of who killed Jason Mizell and why.
‘What we’ve alleged in that indictment is that on October 30, 2002, Mr Jordan and Mr Washington walked into a music studio in Queens where Mr Mizell and others were working essentially, hanging out, and they walked in and murdered him in cold blood.’
Jordan and Washington are both facing 10 felony counts. Two of those counts are for Mizell’s murder, and the others are related to distribution of cocaine.
Washington and Jordan were engaged in a conspiracy to distribute five kilograms of cocaine at the time of Mizell’s killing, according to the indictment.
In a separate memo, prosecutors alleged that Mizell had sought to exclude Washington from a ‘multi-kilogram, multi-state, narcotics transaction’ – and that Washington and Jordan conspired to kill the artist in retaliation.
Washington, who had reportedly been living on a couch at Mizell’s home in the days before his death, was publicly named as a possible suspect or witness as far back as 2007.
He is currently serving a federal prison sentence in Kentucky, stemming from a string of robberies he committed while on the run from police after Mizell’s death.
In court papers filed at the time, prosecutors alleged that Washington waved a handgun around and ordered people in Mizell’s Queens recording studio to lie on the ground while another man killed him on October 30, 2002.
Washington ‘provided cover for his associate’ – Jordan – ‘to shoot and kill Jason Mizell’, prosecutors wrote.
On Monday prosecutors confirmed that Jordan had been arrested by ATF officers on Sunday.
Mizell was shot once in the head with a .40-caliber bullet by a masked assailant at his studio in Hollis, the Queens neighborhood where he grew up, police said at the time. He left behind a wife and three children.
Police identified at least four people in the studio with Mizell, including the two armed gunmen.
The city and Mizell’s friends offered more than $60,000 in reward money, but witnesses refused to come forward and the case languished.
Mizell’s acquaintance with Washington upset his family. Before sleeping on Mizell’s couch, Washington had been linked to the 1995 fatal shooting of Randy Walker, a close associate of the late Tupac Shakur.
ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCormick offered a message for Mizell’s loved ones at Monday’s press conference.
‘To family and friends of Mr Mizell who endured a heavy burden of grief over these many years, we hope that today’s arrests and indictments and this announcement will bring some measure of peace,’ McCormick said.
Jordan appeared at an arraignment on Monday afternoon and pleaded not guilty.
Washington is expected to be arraigned later this week.
If convicted, Washington and Jordan each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, or the death penalty.
Prosecutors said in court papers that Attorney General William Barr had not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.
Mizell shot to stardom in the 80s as a member of 1980s hip-hop sensation Run-DMC with Joseph ‘Run’ Simmons and Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniel.
Their hits included ‘It’s Tricky,’ ‘Christmas in Hollis’ and the Aerosmith remake collaboration ‘Walk This Way.’
Run-DMC became known as the pioneers of hip-hop in the early eighties, popularizing the then-underground music movement for the masses.
The trio went on to become the first hip-hop act to have a gold album, a platinum record, Grammy nomination and, in 2009, they became only the second hip-hop group in history to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, after Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Run-DMC were the first rap group to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, and they were the first to appear on American Bandstand and have their videos played on MTV.
It was Mizell who is credited for creating the band’s distinctive style of wearing heavy gold chains, black hats, and Adidas shell-toe sneakers minus the laces, once saying, ‘How I dressed in high school is the way we dressed… My vibe is our vibe.’
Their reign came to a tragic end in 2002 after Mizell was shot and killed.
The mysterious circumstances surrounding Jay’s death were chronicled in a 2018 Netflix documentary called ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay?
The film failed to come to a conclusion about who committed the killing.
Prosecutors provided more detail about the motive for Mizell’s killing a memo asking the presiding judge to hold Jordan and Washington without bond.
It describes how an investigation by the NYPD, ATF and FBI ‘revealed that, prior to his murder, Mizell sought to exclude Washington from a multi-kilogram, multi-state, narcotics transaction. In retaliation, Washington and Jordan conspired to murder, and ultimately executed, Mizell.’
Prosecutors alleged that Mizell was involved in a cocaine trafficking scheme between 1996 and 2002.
‘In or about July 2002, Mizell acquired approximately ten kilograms of cocaine on consignment from a supplier in the Midwest,’ the memo states.
‘The cocaine was intended to be distributed in Maryland by Washington, Jordan and other co-conspirators.
‘A dispute between Washington and one of the co-conspirators resulted in Mizell telling Washington that he would be cut out of the Maryland transaction.
‘Following Washington’s dispute with Mizell, Washington and Jordan conspired to murder Mizell.’