NEW YORK — A man and woman who watched Jam Master Jay’s final moments are expected to break their silence and describe how he was murdered before their eyes at the Brooklyn trial of the hip-hop icon’s alleged killers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Miranda Gonzalez said Monday that the Run-DMC founder’s manager, Lydia High, and his close friend, Uriel “Tony” Rincon, will both take the stand during the four-week Brooklyn Federal Court trial.
Rincon, who was shot in the leg inches away from the slain DJ in his Queens studio in 2002, told the New York Daily News in a 2007 interview that he never saw the killer’s face.
But Rincon finally admitted what he witnessed to law enforcement in 2016, and named Karl Jordan Jr. as the man who fired the fatal bullet, Gonzalez said.
Jurors on Monday saw photos of the crime scene, including pictures of Jay, real name Jason Mizell, dead on the floor near a green couch in his cramped music studio, his head haloed by a pool of blood and gore.
“Oct. 30, 2002 was the last day of Jason Mizell’s life,” Gonzalez told the jury in her opening argument Monday. “It was an ambush, an execution, and you’ll learn that it was motivated by greed and by revenge.”
Mizell knew both suspects well — Jordan was his godson, and Washington was his childhood friend. They had gotten into the drug trade together, after Mizell established himself as a middleman between a drug supplier in Baltimore and dealers in the New York area.
“As the spotlight on Run-DMC began to fade, the money wasn’t coming in to Jason Mizell as it once was, so he turned to drugs to make money,” Gonzalez said, adding that Mizell cut Washington and Jordan out of a $200,000 narcotics deal, Gonzalez said.
“Jordan and Washington were left with nothing,” she said.
The night of the murder, Bryant was let in the front door of the rapper’s 24/7 Studio on Merrick Blvd. in Hollis, then headed to the back of the building to unlock the fire door, where Jordan and Washington entered, the prosecutor said.
Mizell, who had a .380-caliber handgun nearby, was playing video games with Rincon when the two walked into the studio, according to the prosecutor.
“Jason stood up and Jordan greeted him, then pulled out his .40-caliber gun,” Gonzalez said. He shot Mizell in the head and Rincon in the leg, she said. Washington then pulled out a gun of his own and ordered High to the ground, the prosecutors said.
High wouldn’t come forward with what she saw until nine months later, Gonzalez said. High testified before a grand jury in 2005 and 2006, but it didn’t amount to any indictments at the time.
Both men bragged about the killing, the prosecutor said, with Washington telling his girlfriend days later and another friend nine years after that, Gonzalez said.
“Jordan said that if Jason Mizell were still alive, he would kill him again,” Gonzalez said.
Washington’s lawyer Ezra Spilke countered that prosecutors were relying on half-remembered memories and rumors.
“This whole case revolves around 10 seconds 21 years ago, a blink of an eye, a generation ago,” he said. “(Prosecutors) don’t know who killed Jason Mizell. They have no clue who did it. … For years, the police could not figure out who did it.”
He added, “These folks pulled a rumor here, and a version of events there, and took a piece of taping glue and stuck it together.”
As for the witnesses, “We’re not saying they’re all a bunch of liars. We’re not saying that. But common sense tells you that memories can fade.”