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Two men plead not guilty to Jam Master Jay’s 2002 murder

Two men have pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering Run-DMC rapper Jam Master Jay in New York in 2002 as it’s revealed a witness gave police information in 2015 that helped bring charges against the suspects. 

Ronald Washington, 56, who is currently serving a prison sentence for robbery, was charged along with Karl Jordan Jr, 36, on Monday for the shooting death of the musician, whose real name was Jason Mizell, in his New York recording studio.

Washington appeared for his arraignment via videoconference and entered his not guilty plea through his lawyer on Tuesday. 

Jordan pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Monday.

Prosecutor Artie McConnell said that although Washington is not accused of pulling the trigger, he was equally responsible for Mizell’s murder and had tried to silence and intimidate witnesses.

‘To plan and carry out the execution of a music icon in his own studio, in his own neighborhood, is so brazen and shows such utter disregard for the law,’ McConnell said at Tuesday’s arraignment.

‘This crime was not an aberration. The defendant has a long and violent criminal history, replete with crimes such as robbery, assault, narcotics trafficking, battery,” McConnell added.

Mizell was shot dead at his recording studio in Hollis, Queens, on October 30, 2002. 

Prosecutors now believe 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 on Monday.

‘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. 

It has also been revealed this week that a witness gave authorities information about Mizell’s murder in 2015. 

At the time, investigators found the information from the witness implicating at least one of the two men charged, but a source told the New York Daily News that the Queens DA didn’t like the idea of charging a crime on the word of one witness. 

‘The DA didn’t want to go forward with one witness. We approached Eastern; they liked it,’ the source told the newspaper.

The source was referring to the Eastern District of New York, which covers Queens.

Investigators were eventually able to corroborate the information with other witnesses, but it took an additional five years before charges were brought against Washington and Jordan.  

Mizell was shot once in the head with a .40-caliber bullet by a masked assailant at his studio in Hollis, 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. 

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.  

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. 

Washington has been imprisoned for 17 years and is due to remain behind bars until June 2022.

Prosecutors said in court papers that Attorney General William Barr had not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty. 

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.

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.  

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 Run’s House.  

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. 

Prosecutors provided more detail about the motive for Mizell’s killing in 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.’ 

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