Federal prosecutors outlined the case against the two men now accused of murdering hip-hop legend Jam Master Jay in court papers 13 years ago, when one of the pair was on trial for an unrelated series of robberies with a BB gun.
Jam Master Jay, real name Jason Mizell, was the DJ of Run-DMC, the trio from Queens who introduced hip-hop to the mainstream, popularizing street style before rap went gangsta. His 2002 killing was included in a list of crimes that might be the object of cross-examination after Ronald “Tinard” Washington suggested he might testify on his own behalf during the 2007 BB gun case in Brooklyn federal court.
“On October 30, 2002, the defendant and an associate entered a music studio in Hollis, Queens, and the defendant pointed his gun at those present in the studio, ordered them to get on the ground, and provided cover for his associate to shoot and kill Jason Mizell,” the April 2, 2007, submission by the prosecutors alleges.
The associate was not named, but investigators confirm that he was Karl Jordan Jr., the man now charged with executing Mizell with a bullet to the head. The letter also mentions a drug deal that prosecutors say led to the killing.
“In or about July or August 2002, [Washington] traveled to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to participate in a multi kilogram narcotics transaction,” the submission says. “[Washington] participated in negotiations for the transaction but, according to [Washington] the deal was never consummated.”
The submission alleges that the deal was to have involved an associate from Queens identified only as Yakim. The submission also alleges that Washington burglarized Yakim’s home, stealing “a firearm, a bullet proof vest and various articles of jewelry.”
The murder indictment unsealed on Monday alleges the result: “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.”
Washington decided not to take the stand in his own defense and there was no testimony in the trial about Mizell. Washington was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison, where he remains.
The allegation that Mizell was involved in major drug dealing remained buried in a single paragraph in a single court document and went largely unnoticed. Mizell was known for a Kangol hat and Adidas sneakers, not kilos of cocaine. His benign image made his violent death all the more puzzling.
But if you read that court document, the only mystery that seemed to remain is why it took so long to charge Mizell’s alleged killers when the authorities knew so much so long ago. The judge in the BB gun case wondered aloud in court why the prosecutors did not go ahead and prosecute what they described as a strong murder case rather than just use it to support a not-quite-armed robbery case.
“Well, one might think if it was such an overwhelming case someone might have prosecuted this man for it and not left it as murder hanging onto a bunch of robberies in which he used a BB gun,” Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Nina Gershon said.
The arrests finally came after Washington wrote to the court at the end of June from McCreary federal prison in Pine Knot, Kentucky, seeking an “immediate release to home confinement” due to unspecified medical issues that make COVID-19 behind bars a particular danger.
Gershon gave the prosecutors until July 22 to respond. The prosecutors missed the deadline and secured an extension to Aug. 14 to “draft an appropriate response.” They missed that deadline as well and secured a second extension, to Aug. 21.
An appropriate response 18 years in the making came on Sunday, when Washington and Jordan were hit with a 10-count murder and narcotics indictment. Washington was already in custody. Jordan was arraigned in Brooklyn federal court on Monday afternoon.
The government’s application for the judge to remand both men summarizes their respective criminal histories. Jordan’s rap sheet is comparatively modest but contains a hint as to why it took so long to make the murder case.
“Most notably, in 2003, Jordan was arrested for Criminal Use of a Firearm in the First Degree in connection with a shooting,” the indictment says. “That case was dismissed when the complainant refused to cooperate with law enforcement.”
Court records indicate that the victim in that case was Mizell’s nephew Rodney Jones, who goes by the rap name Boe Skagz. He was hit in the leg and survived.
A detective who worked the Mizell case says the whole investigation was hampered by witnesses who were either intimidated into silence or afraid of being labeled a snitch.
“Knowing and proving are two different things,” the detective says of the 18-year efforts.
The letter in the BB gun case back in 2007 alleges that Washington was himself involved in at least two other shootings. One involved a relative:
“While in Baltimore in or about 1992 or 1993, the defendant shot a family relation known as ‘Unique’ in the back of the head because the defendant believed that Unique was responsible for 250 grams of heroin that was missing. Unique survived the shooting.”
The other victim was Randy “Stretch” Walker, a rapper who was close to Tupac Shakur before they had a falling out. The 2007 letter alleges:
“November 30, 1995, the defendant, carrying an assault rifle, while a passenger in a car driven by a close friend, engaged in a high speed chase through residential streets in Queens and shot and killed Randy Walker, who was driving another car.”
The letter notes that the car overturned on a residential street and that the intended target was believed to have actually been Walker’s brother.
Court documents also allege that Washington went on his two-month robbery spree with a BB gun after he was questioned by detectives about the 2002 killing of Mizell. Prosecutors in the resulting 2007 robbery case suggested that Washington figured he would get in less trouble if he got caught than if he had used an actual firearm.
Washington got 17 years anyway, perhaps an all-time record for BB gun stick-ups. He will now be transferred from the Kentucky prison to New York, but not for home confinement. He will return to Brooklyn federal court, this time charged with a murder that was detailed in a submission 13 years ago.
Jordan entered a not guilty plea and was remanded. Washington is expected also to plead not guilty and to remain behind bars, COVID-19 or no COVID-19. They could both face the death penalty.