Prosecutors claim that Jason Mizell better known as Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC was killed because of “greed and revenge”, the New York Post reports.
Ronald Washington, 59, and Karl Jordan Jr., 39, both of whom were arrested in 2020, have been charged with killing Mizell in 2002 at his music studio in Queens. The death sent shockwaves through the hip-hop, as well as the greater music community at the loss of the turntablist who was one-third of the pioneering rap group Run DMC.
During her opening arguments in the federal court in Brooklyn, Assistant US Attorney Miranda Gonzalez described his theory of the events that led to Mizell’s death
“It was a brutal crime,” Gonzalez said to the jury.
In the mid-1990s when Run-DMC’s popularity began to wane and his money was running out, Mizell began using his connections and became a “middleman” who helped unload shipments of cocaine into New York City, prosecutors stated.
“As the spotlight for Run-DMC started to fade, the money wasn’t coming into Jason Mizell as it once was, so he turned to drugs to make money,” Gonzalez said.
Allegedly, she explained, Mizell had earned hundreds of thousands of dollars as a drug trafficker, and in one transaction known as the “Baltimore Deal,” he helped move $200,000 in drugs from New York City to Washington, DC.
But after allegedly making large sums of money in the illegal business, everything went wrong on the night of Oct. 30, 2002. According to court documents, the drug distributor wanted to cut Washington, Mizell’s childhood friend, out of the arrangement. Jordan, Mizell’s godson, would lose out on profits from the alleged 10-kilogram cocaine transaction.
When Washinton and Jordan received word that they were being excluded from the deal, Washington and Jordan concocted a plan to murder Mizell, per court documents.
“The defendants had killed a world-famous musician in front of people they know,” Gonzalez said.
“It was an ambush. An execution,” she added. “And you’ll learn that it was motivated by greed and revenge.”
Gonzalez also noted that Mizell had a .380-caliber pistol on the armrest of the sofa because he feared for his life following an encounter with Washington earlier in the day.
“People close to Jason will tell you that in the days leading up to his murder, he seemed different,” she told the jury.
Jay Bryant, 49, another suspect charged in connection with Mizell’s killing will stand trial in a separate case later this year, allegedly let Jordan and Washington into Mizell’s studio by fire escape through a rear entrance.
After seeing Jordan enter the studio, Mizell rose stood up, and “put a .40-caliber bullet in his head, killing him instantly.”
Because of the close range of the shot, the bullet “burned the hair and skin of his head” Gonzalez said.
Defense attorneys for Washington and Jordan argued for their clients’ innocence while casting doubt on the prosecutor’s statements.
“Karl Jordan Jr., did not kill Jason Mizell,” Jordan’s attorney John Diaz said.
“This whole case revolves around 10 seconds, 21 years ago — a blink of an eye, a generation ago,” said Ezra Spilke, Washington’s attorney.
Spilke also said that Washington and Mizell were like family and that he struggled with alcoholism and would sleep on Mizell’s couch.
“If that’s the case, why bite the hand that feeds you — why kill the one person you depend on?” Spilke argued.
Jacqueline Cistaro, Washington’s other attorney, questioned no one at the studio at the time of the murder called 911.
Regarded as one the most iconic rap groups of all time, RUN-DMC, comprised of Mizell, Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons, and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, who created several groundbreaking songs such as “Sucker M.C.'s” "It's Like That," "Rock Box," "Walk This Way,” “Down With the King,” and many more.
Among the group’s many honors, in 2009, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
If convicted, Washington and Jordan could face at least 20 years in prison.
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