Third person charged in 2002 killing of hip-hop pioneer Jam Master Jay

A third person has been indicted in the killing of Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay, more than two decades after he was found fatally shot in his New York studio and nearly three years after two men were charged in the crime, officials said Tuesday.

Jay Bryant, 49, was charged with the murder of Jam Master Jay, whose real name was Jason Mizell, while engaged in narcotics trafficking, according to a superseding indictment filed in federal court in New York’s Eastern District.

Bryant, who also faces a firearms charge, is being held on unrelated federal drug charges and is expected to be arraigned later, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said.

In a detention memo, the prosecutor’s office said Bryant was observed entering the DJ’s Queens recording studio immediately before the shooting on Oct. 20, 2002. A piece of clothing left at the scene contained his DNA, according to the memo.

Bryant allegedly claimed to an associate that he was the gunman who shot Mizell, but the memo cast doubt on the claim and said evidence to be presented at a coming trial would show that another person charged in the killing, Karl Jordan Jr., fired twice from close range.

One of the shots struck an unidentified person in the leg, the memo says. After Mizell was hit in the head, Bryant, Jordan and a third person, Ronald Washington, fled, the memo says.

Washington, who was accused of pointing a gun at someone inside the studio and ordering the person to lie on the floor, was indicted on the same charges as Bryant. Jordan was charged with those crimes and others, including multiple counts of cocaine distribution.

In the detention memo, prosecutors argued that Bryant should remain behind bars while awaiting trial because he’s a flight risk and poses a danger to the community. The memo points to previous drug charges, apparent multiple aliases and a statement Bryant is said to have made to authorities suggesting that he would flee to Cuba if he were released.

A lawyer for Bryant said Tuesday that he had just learned of the charges.

“Mr. Bryant will be pleading not guilty,” attorney Cesar de Castro said in an email. “Securing an indictment in a secret grand jury, applying an extremely low burden of proof, is one thing. Proving it at trial is another matter.” 

Jordan and Washington pleaded not guilty. In a sworn statement, Washington previously said Mizell was a “childhood friend,” and he described the detectives investigating the case as hostile.

A lawyer for Washington on Tuesday called Bryant’s indictment a “game changer” and said his claims undercut the prosecution’s case.

“What were they gonna do if this case went to trial in Feb…as scheduled?” the lawyer, Susan Kellman, said in an email. 

A lawyer for Jordan did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.