2 men found guilty of murder in Jam Master Jay killing

A jury found two men guilty of murder in the killing of hip-hop icon Jam Master Jay in a New York City recording studio in 2002, federal prosecutors said.

Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington were accused of killing Jam Master Jay — born Jason Mizell, who co-founded Run-DMC in the early 1980s — in a drug deal.

Jordan and Washington face at least 20 years behind bars and a maximum of life in prison. Prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty.

Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, thanked witnesses, who he said showed bravery in testifying.

“It’s no mystery why it took years to indict and arrest the defendants,” Peace said. “The witnesses in the recording studio knew the killers. And they were terrified that they would be retaliated against if they cooperated with law enforcement and identified the ruthless executioners of Mr. Mizell.”

Federal prosecutors have said Mizell got involved in cocaine trafficking in the mid-1990s as Run-DMC’s notoriety was fading.

Authorities have said Mizell had acquired 22 pounds of cocaine that Washington, Jordan and others were going to distribute in Maryland.

Prosecutors have alleged that when Mizell informed Washington that he wouldn’t be part of the distribution, Washington hatched a “murder conspiracy” against Mizell.

At 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30, 2002, Washington and Jordan entered a 24-hour recording studio in Queens where Mizell was and ordered him to lie on the floor, prosecutors said.

Jordan fired two shots at close range, with one fatally striking Mizell in the head, prosecutors alleged. Jordan was 36 when the charges were announced in 2020; Washington was 56.

“They murdered him in cold blood,” Seth DuCharme, then the acting U.S. attorney, said when charges were announced.

In 2007, when Washington was on trial in connection with a string of armed robberies, he was first mentioned as a possible suspect in Mizell’s slaying. He has maintained that he had no involvement.

DuCharme in 2020 credited a new team of prosecutors and investigators with cracking the almost two-decade-old case.

Jordan, who was 18 years old at the time of the attack, has said he was at the home of his girlfriend that night, and witnesses can corroborate that assertion, his lawyers said in court documents, according to The Associated Press. His defense also reportedly said in court documents that Mizell and Jordan’s father were lifelong friends.

He also faced gun and cocaine charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

After the jury read its guilty verdicts in court Tuesday, Washington stood and said he was innocent. Jordan told his family who were present that he loved them, NBC New York reported.

Jordan’s mother, Jacqueline Gonzalez, told reporters after the verdict that “I just want to say that my son is innocent.”

“My son had nothing to do with this crime, nothing at all,” she said.

In May, a third defendant, Jay Bryant, 49, was charged with murder after prosecutors said they had proof he was also at the recording studio the night of the slaying.

It was later determined that he would be tried separately.

Bryant’s lawyer, César de Castro, told the AP last year that the charge was the result of “a low burden of proof” and suggested prosecutors would have an uphill battle.

Asked Tuesday night to weigh in on his client’s case, de Castro sent information about a ruling in favor of a separate trial and the case’s scheduling. He said the trial was scheduled for January 2026. 

Mizell was Run-DMC’s DJ, but he also contributed to its crisp, bottom-heavy sound, lending live drums, bass and keyboards to studio sessions. Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Joseph “Run” Simmons are the two other founding members.

“Walk This Way,” the trio’s 1986 mashup with Aerosmith, is often cited as its lightning-in-a-bottle moment, which came two years after it released “Rock Box,” another song with head-banging guitar chords.

Music publication Okayplayer said Run-DMC wasn’t trying to appease rock-loving white audiences; the three were trying to one-up the bombast of Billy Squire’s 1980 hit “Big Beat.” They were planting a flag for hip-hop’s vitality.

Susan G. Kellman, an attorney for Washington, said in an email that Washington and Jordan did not kill Jam Master Jay. She said prosecutors “made up a motive” and “they rejected hard facts.”

Attorneys for Jordan did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment Tuesday evening.

Ryan Thompson, a cousin of Jam Master Jay’s who grew up with him, said outside court that he has been missed.

“He had a great smile. Very creative person, a very giving person,” Thompson told reporters. He said the verdicts were “a victory for him, for my aunt and for his brothers and sisters.”

Peace, the U.S. attorney, said Tuesday after the verdicts that Jam Master Jay was a trailblazing artist whose “life was cut short as a result of greed and revenge.”

“Today is justice for Mr. Mizell and his family,” Peace said.

He said the witnesses who testified at trial made the difference.

“Their strength and resolve in testifying at this trial were a triumph of right over wrong and courage over fear,” Peace said.

First appeared on www.nbcnews.com

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