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Crime and Public Safety |
Witness at Jam Master Jay trial opens door for alternate murder theory

Jay Bryant, who was charged in Jam Master Jay’s 2002 murder.
Jay Bryant, who was charged in Jam Master Jay’s 2002 murder.

A witness handed the men on trial for killing Jam Master Jay an alternate theory of the crime Wednesday — telling the jury his nephew confessed to killing the Run-DMC icon because he reached for a gun.

Raymond Bryant, the uncle of Jay Bryant, said his nephew made the admission at a relative’s house in Queens in 2003. And he was barred from speculating whether his nephew was working with accomplices.

His turn on the stand was part of a lively day of testimony at the trial of Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald “Tinard” Washington, who are accused of killing Jay, real name Jason Mizell, over a drug deal in his Queens music studio on Oct. 30, 2002.

Run-D.M.C.'s Jason Mizell, Jam-Master Jay (AP Photo/G. Paul Burnett, File)
Run-D.M.C.’s Jason Mizell, Jam-Master Jay (AP Photo/G. Paul Burnett, File)

Another witness, Washington’s fellow inmate in the Metropolitan Detention Center, was forced to appear and reiterate his claims that Washington confessed to the crime when they were jailed together in 2011.

Jay Bryant’s uncle, who was subpoenaed to testify, said his nephew made the admission in a one-on-one conversation, out of earshot of other people.

“He basically told me that he was involved. He basically said that he did it. He didn’t get into it too much,” Raymond Bryant said, adding that his nephew explained “that maybe he wouldn’t have did it if he didn’t go for his gun or something.”

Jay Bryant was indicted and added to the case last May, nearly three years after Jordan and Washington were charged with the murder. He’s not on trial after his lawyer successfully argued to have his case severed from Jordan and Washington.

Bryant’s uncle also testified that his nephew told him in 2016 that his DNA might be on a hat found at the murder scene.

Prosecutors have been working throughout the trial to blunt the impact of Jay Bryant’s confession, contending in their opening arguments that he unlocked the rear door of the studio to let Jordan and Washington inside. They’ve also sought to link Jay Bryant to Jordan and his brother, and have gotten witnesses from the night of the killing to say they’ve never seen Bryant before.

Karl Jordan
Karl Jordan

A key witness, Uriel “Tony” Rincon, said he was inches away and saw Jordan’s face before Jordan blasted a hole in his leg and shot Mizell in the head. Rincon identified Washington as the man who blocked the studio door and pointed a gun at Mizell’s business manager, Lydia High — who also took the stand and identified Washington.

Crime scene photos from inside the studio where Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) was killed.
Court Evidence
Crime scene photos from inside the studio where Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) was killed.

Later Wednesday, the jury heard from Yusuf Abdur-Rahman, who was taken into custody on a material witness warrant and made to testify.

Abdur-Rahman acknowledged he sent the federal government a letter saying Washington confided in him “that he had murdered Jam Master Jay, the rapper.”

He tried to get around recounting what he wrote in the letter, saying he couldn’t read without his glasses. But that excuse fell away when Judge Lashann DeArcy Hall handed him a spare pair of reading glasses she kept on the bench.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Miranda Gonzalez later played a pair of frantic voice recordings on which Abdur-Rahman insisted he’d never take the stand because he felt misled and lied to about only being a grand jury witness, and that he didn’t want his reputation tarnished as a “snitch.”

“I’m not about to get on the stand. I don’t care what the judge said,” he was recorded saying. “I’m not about to do no s–t like that. If it was a matter of life and death, I’m not going to do it. Have a nice day.”