A man charged over the 2002 fatal shooting of hip-hop pioneer Jam Master Jay has pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, and remained in federal custody where he is already serving a prison sentence for robbery.

Ronald Washington, 56, entered his plea remotely from Kentucky, while his lawyer and the government’s lawyers appeared by teleconference because of coronavirus concerns.

Washington and Karl Jordan Jr, 36, face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, or the death penalty if convicted of murder in the death of Jason “Jay” Mizell, known professionally as Jam Master Jay.

Jay formed Run-DMC with Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels in the early 1980s, and the group charted mainstream success with songs such as the Aerosmith remake Walk This Way, and My Adidas.

Jordan pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Monday, the day federal prosecutors announced the indictment.

Jay was 37 years old when he was killed, shot once in the head with a .40-calibre bullet by a masked assailant at his studio in the Hollis section of Queens.

Police identified at least four people in the studio with Jay when he was killed, including the two armed gunmen, but the case was cold for years, even when thousands of dollars in reward money was offered, as witnesses refused to come forward.

A mural of Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC by artist Art1Airbrush in the Queens borough of New York
A mural of Jam Master Jay, of Run-DMC, by artist Art1Airbrush in the Queens borough of New York (John Minchillo/AP)

Washington, who had reportedly been living on a couch at Jay’s home in the days before the killing, was publicly named as a possible suspect or witness as far back as 2007.

Prosecutors allege he waved a handgun and ordered another person at the recording studio to lie on the ground while Jordan shot Jay in the head on October 30 2002.

According to prosecutors, Jay would bring in bulk amounts of cocaine to sell retail and was killed as retribution for cutting Washington out of a plan to distribute 10kg in Maryland.

The Mizell family issued a statement saying they “have mixed emotions; we truly hope that these indictments are a solid step towards justice being served in the murder of Jay”.

McDaniels, his band mate, said, “Although this latest news opens up a lot of painful memories for all of us who knew and loved Jam Master Jay, I’m relieved to hear that two suspects have been arrested and charged with his murder.”