Plea talks ongoing for 3rd man charged in killing of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are exploring the possibility of a plea deal for the last of three men charged in the 2002 killing of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay, both sides said Thursday, less than six weeks after two co-defendants were convicted.

The talks just began, and it's unclear what federal prosecutors might be willing to offer Jay Bryant, or what he might be willing to accept. Federal prosecutors and Bryant's lawyer, César de Castro, declined to comment after court.

Both sides are due to file a written status update Aug. 5.

For now, Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall set Bryant's trial for late next January.

Bryant, 50, has pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting of Jam Master Jay, born Jason Mizell. As a DJ in Run-DMC, he crafted beats and scratches that helped rap break through to a mainstream audience in the 1980s. With hits such as “It's Tricky” and a genre-crossing version of Aerosmith's “Walk This Way,” Run-DMC was the first rap group with gold and platinum albums and a video in regular rotation on MTV.

Mizell was shot in his Queens, New York, recording studio on Oct. 30, 2002, in front of witnesses who worked for him. Despite rewards and a plethora of tips, it took decades for investigators to elicit the information that finally led to the arrests of Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington in 2020 and Bryant in 2023.

Washington and Jordan were convicted in February. They had pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers had challenged key witnesses’ credibility. Some initially denied they could identify the attackers or had heard who they were but later implicated one or both of the defendants.

Both were close to Mizell: Jordan was his godson, Washington an old friend. Prosecutors said the two killed the DJ because of bad blood over a drug deal, a theory that complicated Mizell's image as a member of a rap group known for its anti-drug advocacy.

Bryant, on the other hand, had little if any connection to the rap star. He knew someone in common with Jordan and Washington, according to testimony at their trial, but it was unclear whether Bryant had any acquaintance with Mizell.

Bryant became part of the case after his DNA was found on a hat in the studio, according to authorities. The hat also bore material from other people — but not Washington or Jordan, according to court papers.

Bryant’s uncle testified that his nephew told him he shot Mizell after the DJ reached for a gun. No other testimony echoed that scenario, however, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell said Bryant was “involved, but he’s not the killer.”

Indeed, prosecutors don’t allege that Bryant even was in the studio, which was in a building with other businesses. Rather, prosecutors say Bryant slipped into the building and opened its back fire door so Washington and Jordan could get in without buzzing the studio.