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Witnesses in Jam Master Jay killing overcame fear to identify murderers, feds say

NEW YORK — It took more than 20 years, but the eyewitnesses to Jam Master Jay’s 2002 murder pushed past their fear to take the stand about his killers — and they were clear about who they saw.

That’s the argument Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell made to close out the trial of two men charged with murdering the Run-DMC icon, real name Jason Mizell, in his Queens music studio over a drug deal in 2002.

“They were afraid. They didn’t want to get involved. They moved away from New York to get away,” McConnell said in his closing argument in Brooklyn Federal Court Tuesday. “I will concede that what they did in the courtroom took courage.”

The legendary DJ’s close friend, Uriel “Tony” Rincon, testified that he was inches away the night of Oct. 30, 2002, when Karl Jordan shot Mizell in the head at point-blank range, as accomplice Ronald “Tinard” Washington stood by the door. Rincon was shot in the leg.

Mizell’s business manager, Lydia High, testified she was sitting nearby when she heard Mizell say “Oh s–t” and watched as his smile turned to a terrified look of shock.

Over three weeks of testimony, the jurors heard from about 40 witnesses, including all five people in the Merrick Blvd. studio the night of his death.

The jurors also heard testimony about Mizell’s role as a middleman to traffic kilos of cocaine to Baltimore, and about Washington and Jordan’s boasts over the years that they committed the murder.

“That was the last moment of Jason Mizell’s life: ‘Oh s–t,’ then a gunshot, then death,” McConnell said.

McConnell portrayed Rincon and High’s testimony as the centerpiece of the government’s case — two people with no motive to lie about what they witnessed, who knew both men before the shooting, and who recognized them.

As for why they initially lied to police about what they saw — High took months to identify Washington to police, and Rincon wouldn’t name Jordan as the shooter for nearly 15 years — McConnell said they were terrified that the killers would target them next.

“Is it really that hard to believe, is there any wonder why they didn’t want to get involved? You can see it, even now, 20 years later, their fear,” he said. “Tony Rincon’s tears were real. … [High] has suffered profound trauma.”

McConnell said he didn’t ask High to identify Washington in the courtroom, but instead showed her a photograph. “You saw her. She couldn’t even look at that side of the courtroom, and it’s not because she’s confused or can’t remember.”

High and Rincon “did everything that they could to stay off the witness stand,” he said.

“They know that it’s them. It’s one of the things about this murder that made it so brazen,” he said. “These are people they knew. There’s no possibility that they’re making a mistake or misremembering.”

Jordan and Washington’s defense lawyers will present their closing arguments Wednesday.

Both men are indicted on two charges — murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking and firearm-related murder. Their defense lawyers moved to have the first charge tossed, arguing that the prosecutors haven’t proven how the murder furthered a narcotics conspiracy.

Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall reserved her decision on that motion.