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Run-DMC, from left, Jason Mizell "Jam Master Jay," Darryl "DMC" McDaniels," and Joseph "Run" Simmons.

Alas, 'Jam Master Jay's' heinous murder goes to trial

NIKA SCHOONOVER, Contributing Writer

BROOKLYN, NY (CN)—Federal prosecutors aiming to get justice for the late hip-hop legend Jam Master Jay gave opening statements at trial on Monday, 20 years after the Run-DMC member was gunned down in his Queens recording studio.

 

Jason “Jay” Mizell was shot in the head and killed on Oct. 30, 2002. According to prosecutors, the defendants Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington conspired to kill Mizell after they were cut out of a drug deal. A third man, Jay Bryant, was also charged in connection with the murder last year but will be tried separately.

“It was a brazen crime,” U.S. attorney Miranda Gonzalez told the court Monday. “The defendants had killed a world-famous musician in front of people who knew him and who they knew.”

When the Eastern District of New York indictment was filed in August of 2020, Washington was already in prison for several robberies that occurred while he was on the run from the police after the shooting. He has served jail time for crimes including heroin distribution and armed robbery.

Jordan had no criminal record when he was arrested in 2020, though prosecutors say he had been in the drug trade for years before.

During openings, prosecutors described Mizell as a pillar of the community who was betrayed by his friends.

 

“Even as Run-DMC rose to fame, you’ll hear that Jason never forgot his roots,” Gonzalez said. She added that he would lend money to friends, let people use his studio for free and allow them to sleep at his family’s house if they didn’t have anywhere to go. When Run-DMC’s profits began to wane, Mizell turned to the drug trade to make money.

Mizell often worked with Washington on these drug deals, according to Gonzalez, and had agreed to work on a particular deal with both Washington and Jordan to transport cocaine from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. They expected to earn about $200,000 from the job. But the dealer in Baltimore refused to work with Wash- ington, who had lived in the city for several years.

“Jordan and Washington were left with nothing,” Gonzalez said.

Attorneys for Jordan and Washington said this case largely relies on memory from 20 years ago, which they say is unreliable.

“This case will be about 10 seconds, 21 years ago,” Washington's attorney Ezra Spilke said during his open statement. “The whole case revolves around a blink of an eye, a generation ago.”

Like Gonzalez, Spilke pointed to Washington's and Jordan’s longstanding friendships with Mizell. He added that Washington, who had been friends with him since childhood, was living at Mizell’s sister’s house around the time of the murder.

“If that’s the case, why bite the hand that feeds you?” Spilke said. “Why kill the one person that you can depend on?”

James Lusk, a detective who was called to the scene of Mizell’s death, was first called to the stand. When Lusk arrived at the scene, he testified, he saw Mizell on the floor. Another man, Tony Rincon, who had been shot in the leg and was curled up on the couch.

Four other witnesses were at the scene, Lusk said, including Randy Allen, Mizell’s business partner, and Mizell’s sister Lydia High, whom Lusk said was crying in the hallway when he arrived at the scene. None of them identified the gunmen immediately after the shooting.

Lusk said detectives on the scene found two shell casings near where the body was found, and two bullet holes on the radiator and wall behind where Mizell was shot.

The jury will remain anonymous. Prosecutors wrote in a filing earlier this month that there has already been evidence of witness tampering and intimidating by defendants directly and by “those acting on their behalf.”

The defendants face a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York to not seek the death penalty.

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Charging documents in the government's case against Taylor Taranto show him, encircled in yellow, entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Courtesy DOJ

Man arrested outside Obama home hit with additional gun felony charges

 

RYAN KNAPPENBERGER, Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (CN)—Federal prosecutors filed two felony gun charges July 14 against Taylor Taranto, a Capitol riot defendant ordered to await trial behind bars earlier this week after his arrest for driving near former Pres-

ident Barack Obama’s Washington home in a van filled with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, two guns and a machete.

 

Taranto is the third Jan. 6 defendant to get detained before his trial after Justice Department attorneys argued he should not be allowed to return to his parent’s home in Washington state because of the potential danger he posed to elected officials and the public, pointing to a string of threatening statements and actions he made in the days leading up to his June 30 arrest. 

Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui said during a detention hearing July 12 that he was concerned over a pair of live streams in which Taranto threatened to blow up his car near the National Institute of Standards and Technology — the agency’s Maryland campus houses a nuclear reactor—and another in which Taranto spoke of finding underground tunnels to enter the homes of Obama and White House senior adviser John Podesta.

Faruqui also said he was concerned about what Taranto, an Iraq War veteran, could have accomplished with his military training and a small arsenal of weaponry.

"I’m scared when I think of the weapons you have … that there could be catastrophic consequences," Faruqui said.

A grand jury filed two charges against Taranto for carrying a pistol without a license and possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device. If convicted, the first charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and one year for the second.

The two felonies are in addition to four misdemeanor charges Taranto faces in connection to his participation at the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, including entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct and parading in the Capitol.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Taranto’s public defender, Kathryn Guevara, argued that the prosecution was trying to characterize her client as a dangerous fugitive and punish him for expressing his political beliefs. Guevara said Taranto only came to Washington, D.C., after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced in February that he would allow some Jan. 6 defendants access to Capitol security footage and that Taranto was in plain sight while in the district.

 

Guevara said her client made multiple appearances at a protest site outside the Washington jail where many Jan. 6 defendants are held and even appeared at the federal courthouse for the sentencing of David Walls-Kaufman two weeks before his arrest.

Guevara could not be reached for comment.

 

Another concerning pair of incidents before Taranto’s arrest occurred at two elementary schools near the home of Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, where Taranto is accused of playing a Jan. 6 cons- piracy video at one and filming children exiting another as part of an evacuation drill.

 

According to the government’s pretrial detention request, Taranto can be heard over video at the second school saying that the evacuation was due to a "violent white supremacist out somewhere."

 

Faruqui made the rare decision to detain Taranto based on concerns that even if the defendant was under house arrest in his parents’ home, there was still a chance he could commit violence. He expressed some sympathy for Taranto’s position, highlighting his military service and the struggles he has faced since returning home, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions, that Faruqui said put him on this path.

"We failed you, and now you have to pay the price for us not taking care of one of our most vulnerable popula- tions," Faruqui said.

Taranto will appear in federal court again on July 25. 

Fired for using the 'Nizzle'

word

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Barbie Bassett. Screenshot

The euphemistic used of a term created and popularized by rap artist Snoop Dogg, has apparently led to the dismissal of veteran Mississippi TV news anchor. There has been no sign of a Mississippi morning news anchor woman since she voiced a Snoop Dogg phrase on air earlier this month, according to entertainment venue, Deadline Hollywood. 

Barbie Bassett has not been on air for the NBC affiliate WLBT since March 8, when her team were discussing the rapper’s addition to his wine line.

 

Bassett said, "Fo shizzle, my nizzle," according to Deadline, when the idea of a Snoop collaboration with a newsroom journalist was raised. (“Nizzle” is slang for the N-word.) The station’s chief meteorologist as well as anchor, Bassett has previously caused controversy with a comment, referring to a Black reporter’s “grand- mammy” on air. She later apologized.

She is no longer listed on the station’s website, according to the Clarion Ledger. And Bassett has not shared anything on Twitter since the same day – her silence including this weekend when a deadly tornado struck Mississippi, sparking huge chatter among meteorologists.

 

The New York Post reports the story but has received no comment from Bassett, WLBT or Snoop Dogg. It quotes the station’s regional vice president Ted Fortenberry, saying: 

"As I am sure you can understand, WLBT is unable to comment on personnel matters.​

Chauvin gets 21 years in prison for federal civil rights violations

Already serving 22½ years  for murder charges in state case; sentences will be served concurrently

MINNEAPOLIS (PNS)Former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison July 7 after he pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges in the killing of George Floyd.

The sentencing comes about seven months since he entered the guilty plea, admitting that he violated Floyd's rights when he knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes during an arrest in May 2020.

According to court documents, Chauvin will serve 21 years in prison on the federal charges. He already is serving 22½ years in prison after he was found guilty of second-and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter in April 2021 in Floyd's death. The sentencing is expected to be served concurrently.

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Derek Chauvin

The ex-cop originally plead not guilty to the federal charges in December 2021 only to later change his plea. By pleading guilty, he avoided another high-profile trial.

Three other officers involved in Floyd's death—Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao—were also convicted on federal charges in February of depriving Floyd of his civil rights. 

In addition, Kueng and Thao also were convicted for not intervening to stop Chauvin during his use of excessive force on Floyd. As of Thursday, sentencing dates for the two former cops have not yet been scheduled.

Kueng and Thao are facing a state trial that has been moved back numerous times, with it now set to begin in October. They face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. Lane entered a guilty plea to state charges consisting of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin also faces federal lawsuits filed against him and the city of Minneapolis for kneeling incidents that happened to civilians years before the killing of Floyd.

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