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NYC jury finds two men guilty in 2002 killing of Jam Master Jay

NEW YORK — A Brooklyn jury has found two men guilty of the 2002 murder of Run-DMC co-founder Jam Master Jay,bringing closure to a cold case mystery that has frustrated the rapper’s family and fans for more than two decades.

The jury needed two and ½ days to decide the fate of Karl Jordan Jr, 40, and Ronald “Tinard” Washington, 59, who were indicted in 2020 on charges they murdered the 37-year-old hip-hop icon in his Queens music studio because they were cut out of a cocaine deal.

Jay, who was born Jason Mizell, was playing a Madden football video game on a couch in his second-floor studio on Merrick Blvd. in Hollis, a .380-caliber pistol on his armrest, on Oct. 30, 2002, when a gunman shot him in the head.

The five other people in the studio kept quiet about what they saw for years — out of fear, federal prosecutors said — until taking the stand over the course of roughly three weeks of testimony in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Deliberations hit a snag on the second day Monday, when one of the jurors revealed he was a regular customer at a Queens barber shop referenced during the trial. Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall replaced him with an alternate, which meant the deliberations had to start from scratch.

Mizell’s friend, Uriel “Tony” Rincon, who told the Daily News in 2007 he was inches away but never saw the killer’s face, broke nearly 15 years of silence to name Jordan, nicknamed “Little D,” as the shooter, and to say Washington was standing guard over the studio door.

And Lydia High, Mizell’s business manager, testified that she saw Mizell’s face turn from a smile to a look of horrified shock, as the killer embraced him, then shot him point-blank in the head. Washington, she said, pointed a gun at her and ordered her to the ground during the chaos.

She didn’t name Jordan during her testimony, but she described how the shooter had a neck tattoo, similar to Jordan.

“These are people they knew. There’s no probability that they’re making a mistake or misremembering,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell said during his closing argument. “Think about this, the brutality of it, the arrogance of it. Well, ladies and gentlemen, this ends here in this courtroom.”

Jordan and Washington’s defense attorneys placed the blame on a third suspect, Jay Bryant, 50, who confessed to his uncle that he shot Mizell, and whose hat was found in the studio with his DNA on it.

They argued Bryant was the real killer, and that the witnesses’ accounts were corrupted by time and fading memory, arguing they altered their recollections to fit a narrative pushed by federal investigators.

Prosecutors indicted Bryant last May, and say he participated in the killing by opening the rear door to the studio building for Jordan and Washington. His case was severed from the others last year, though, and he won’t see trial until 2026.

Bryant’s hat and confession to his uncle in 2003 amounted to probable cause, defense lawyers argued — but the jury didn’t agree.

The case also pulled the curtain back on Mizell — a beloved figure in the hip-hop community and a giant in Hollis, where he grew up, sharing his successes with his family and friends.

Run-DMC helped push a “Just Say No” anti-drug message in the 80s, but Mizell turned to drug dealing occasionally to make ends meet, and to keep the money flowing to all the people he supported in his neighborhood, prosecutors said.

He was supplied cocaine by a man named “Unc” — Terry Flanory of the Black Mafia Family, who was known to rub elbows with several hip-hop stars — and was trying to set up a 10-kilo deal with a dealer in Baltimore, witnesses said.

But the Baltimore deal hit a snag that August when that dealer, Ralph Mullgrav, refused to work with Washington because of past bad blood.

Prosecutors contended that Washington and Jordan killed Mizell because he was cut out of that deal — casting the slaying as a murder motivated by greed, revenge and jealousy.

Jordan and Washington’s lawyer had a different take on motive — saying prosecutors didn’t establish one, or prove the killing was committed to further a drug conspiracy, since the deal fell through because of Mullgrav, not Mizell.