MAYS LANDING, N.J. — Did the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office have knowledge of a low-level drug dealer "looking for someone to help a local doctor kill his wife" before April Kauffman, wife of endocrinologist James Kauffman, was murdered in May 2012?
That was the bombshell argument made by Public Defender Mary Linehan on the first day of the long-awaited trial in the murder of April Kauffman. Linehan represents Ferdinand "Freddy" Augello, also known as "Miserable," a former president of a New Jersey Shore Pagan's Outlaw Motorcycle Club and the sole surviving defendant charged in Kauffman's slaying.
James Kauffman, 69, a prominent doctor whom the state says contracted with Augello to murder his wife in their Linwood home, killed himself in January while being held at the Hudson County Jail. Kauffman was first arrested on gun charges on June 13, 2017, after a standoff at his office. He and Augello were charged in the murder on Jan. 9.
"They've known since 2012," Linehan told a Superior Court jury on Monday. "The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office had this information arguably before April Kauffman's death and positively after April Kauffman's death."
The 47-year-old radio host was found shot to death on May 10, 2012, in the bedroom of the couple's home.
The office, she said, did not act on that information for six years, even as a drug ring run out of Kauffman's Egg Harbor Township office continued to thrive. In the end, she said, the prosecution became "too big to fail," referencing news conferences and appearances on national television. She said that the trial of Augello would hold the state to account for its actions and that April Kauffman's death was "at the hands of her husband."
"What the state has done and what the state has failed to do," Linehan said, "it's time for the accounting to be done."
Damon Tyner, the Atlantic County prosecutor who took over the investigation in 2017, declined to comment on Linehan's allegation. His office has been under a gag order in the case imposed by the judge after Tyner appeared on ABC's 20/20. Augello, who was posting on Facebook, is also under a gag order.
In his opening statement, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy sketched a narrative of clashing empires: James Kauffman, the high-flying, motorcycle-loving endocrinologist, and Augello, the Pagans chief who oversaw a lucrative OxyContin ring in concert with Kauffman.
"His medical practice was thriving on diabetes patients, the elderly," Levy said. "He was married to a beautiful, vivacious, and successful wife, a woman who increased not only his practice but his fortune. This was Jim Kauffman's empire, and he loved it more than anything in the entire world."
The empire was threatened, Levy said, when April sought a divorce after discovering her husband had lied about being a Vietnam veteran and Green Beret.
James Kauffman's response was blunt. "He would kill her and her entire family before he'd give her half of his empire," Levy said.
In response, April tried to first "spend him to death," and then threatened to expose the Kauffman-Pagans drug organization.
"She had something extra, something so deep and so secret, she could bring it all crashing down, ruin his practice," Levy said.
James Kauffman hatched the plot to kill April, Levy said, offering Augello $50,000 to find someone to do it. That led to more than a year of shopping around the doctor's wishes, Levy said, as one Pagan after another turned down the offer. Ultimately, he said, a heroin addict named Francis Mulholland accepted. Mulholland was found dead of an overdose 18 months after April Kauffman was killed.
"You might think there's no more two different people: the wealthy doctor who wants to be part of high society and the Pagan president," he said. "In their mutual greed, they found common ground. They came together to silence April, to make sure their empires of easy money would last forever."
Attending the trial was Carole Weintraub, a high school sweetheart of Kauffman's, who married him after April's murder. She declined to comment, taking notes in the second row.
Called to the stand was Andrew "Chef" Glick, another Pagan involved in the OxyContin ring and a cooperating witness who recorded conversations with Augello and others.
He testified that Joseph Mulholland, who pleaded guilty in connection with the ring, told him: "The doc was looking for someone to kill his wife."
"Would I be interested in doing a hit?" Glick said he was asked.
He said the time frame was "the sooner the better," as "the doc was impatient." Meetings with the Philadelphia mob at the Borgata and suggestions of other South Jersey gangs had not yielded a willing killer.
He turned the offer down, he said. It wasn't in his wheelhouse; he was more of a "hustler," not a killer.
"The doc was looking for someone to kill his wife, she was going to divorce him. She was cheating on him. He wasn't going to give her half his wealth, which was almost $5 million," Glick said he was told. "I was like, wow. That's rough. I said, 'I'll ask around.' My forte is not that."
In a recording played in court, Augello and Glick discuss a letter from Kauffman's attorney Ed Jacobs urging prosecutors to investigate Augello and Francis Mulholland.
"I don't even know the guy," Augello says on the tape, and calls it a "bizarre scapegoat fantasy." Neither acknowledges knowing Francis Mulholland, and they wonder why, under a "hypothetical" conspiracy, Kauffman would lead investigators to someone who could implicate him.
Glick testified Augello reassured him any Pagans involvement could not be proved. He said Kauffman promised Augello access to his Arizona house and a lucrative drug operation in the West, but had not delivered. He said Kauffman gave Augello a Corvette worth $10,000 to $15,000 as a "down payment" on the contract to kill his wife.