Immediately after Jam Master Jay's death in 2002, the recording studio where he hung out became a scene of chaos.
Randy Allen, a childhood friend of the DJ, whose legal name was Jason Mizell, testified Tuesday in the Brooklyn trial where two men are charged with Mizell's murder. He said he was in the studio's control room, smoking a joint and listening to an unsigned artist's demo CD when he heard gunshots in the next room. “This is not the case [compute] in my head that's it [the sound] was,” he told the jury. “I came across the [studio’s speaker] monitor and leave the room. I stumbled and fumbled. He said he didn't know how long it took him to get into the room where Mizell was playing video games.
“I saw my sister [Lydia High] lying on the left side of the door, crying and screaming,” he said, referring to a witness who testified Monday. “I saw Tony [Rincon, who had been sitting next to Mizell] hopping on one leg, and I looked at Jay, and he's laying there. He was shot. Blood was coming out of his head. … [Lydia] I was just crying hysterically.
Allen grabbed a gun Mizell had brought with him and ran outside looking for the shooter. Having seen no one who could have done it, he hid the gun on a parking lot tire and ran to a nearby New York police station. He told the jury he didn't bother calling 911 because he “didn't want to waste time.” (He later explained this, saying the 911 was a dispatcher, and the gallery seemed dubious of that explanation.) He told police he saw his friend shot and took them back to the studio. The cops wouldn't let him back into the studio while they investigated, so he went to the building's bathroom and sat on the floor until paramedics removed Mizell's body.
The U.S. government has charged three men in Mizell's death. Although this case could see Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington face minimum sentences of 20 years if convicted, the third man, Jay Bryant, will be tried at a later date.
Prosecutors say Jordan pulled the trigger, killing Mizell and wounding another man, while Washington stood guard at the studio door. They claim the defendants were promised a role in a cocaine distribution deal with Mizell, who served as a middleman, and that when Mizell excluded Washington, they conspired to kill him. Defense attorneys say their clients were not the killers and that witness testimony does not match reports they provided at the time of the shooting.
Allen told the jury that Uriel “Tony” Rincon told him days after the shooting that he thought Jordan was the shooter and that he had also seen Washington. He said his sister identified Washington to him a few days after the shooting. “He pointed a gun at her and held her down,” Allen told her.
However, he told the jury he did not see either man that night. When the prosecutor asked him why he did not report this information to the police in subsequent years, he replied that he did not feel comfortable. “I couldn’t do that to my sister,” he said. “It was his story to tell. … She's very, very emotional. It was up to her to say it.
In his testimony, Allen, who wore a casual black hoodie, said Mizell had been his best friend since childhood. They had met in the 1970s, when Allen was 11 or 12 and living near Mizell. They attended high school together and remained close even after Mizell achieved worldwide fame with Run-DMC. In 1988 and 1989, Allen was serving time in state prison for selling drugs, and Mizell visited him “very often,” Allen said, “whenever he could.”
Years later, Mizell invited Allen to work for him at JMJ Records, the DJ's Def Jam imprint. Mizell made Allen vice president of the brand but never put it in writing, Allen said, because Mizell “already had financial problems related to Run-DMC” and he didn't want Allen to be responsible for any debt.
Allen told the jury he didn't know Mizell was selling drugs, but he noticed Mizell started bringing a gun with him. “I might have looked at him strangely [because of it]” Allen recalled, but he did not tell him to put it away. He added that he knew defendant Washington “from the neighborhood” and that Washington was among the people who would visit Mizell at the studio.
When prosecutor Artie McConnell asked Allen if he could meet Washington in court, Allen nodded, smiled and looked at Washington for a suspenseful moment before saying, “Right there in that blue shirt, glasses . » Allen said he also recognized Jordan, who was the son of a man who lived across the street from him and Mizell when he was a child. “Right there, in the glasses, brownish shirt, turtleneck,” Allen said.
Allen told prosecutors that after the shooting, he went to Mizell's house to see his sister and spotted Jordan's father, who goes by “Big D,” across the street. “I said, 'What's up?' How are we going to deal with this?' “, he remembers. He clarified that his intention was in a community sense, that is, how would the community come together to solve the problem, without involving him or his family members.
Under cross-examination, Allen reiterated to Jordan's attorney that he had not seen Jordan the night of the shooting and admitted that anyone with knowledge of the security system could tamper with the VCR. He also reiterated that he did not want to subject his sister and Rincon to police scrutiny because it “would have been confused with whatever was happening in the media” at the time of the shooting.
Washington's attorney, Susan Kellman, focused her questioning on the statement Allen gave to police the night of the shooting. He told authorities he heard three to six gunshots, likely from two different weapons. He also said he saw a black man with short hair, heavyset but who appeared tall, coming down the stairs. (This description does not match Washington's.) Allen said his signature was on the police report but that he did not remember making the claims. Given these discrepancies, she asked him if he thought his memories of the night could have been more accurate closer to the event. He said that would be the case and reiterated that he had not seen Washington that night.
On Tuesday, prosecutors called two more witnesses who they say played minor roles in the drug ring, including Washington: Lewis Gonzalez, who drove Bryant to cocaine drop-offs and pickups, and Christopher Burrell, a friend of Mizell's who toured with Run-DMC. Prosecutors focused Burrell's testimony on trips he took to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. with Mizell and defendant Washington, including one trip during which he claimed to have overheard a conversation in which Washington planned to sell cocaine to Mizell. Burrell's testimony will continue tomorrow.