MAYS LANDING, N.J. — With the alleged mastermind of the 2012 murder of April Kauffman — her husband, Dr. James Kauffman — long dead, strangled at his own hands inside a jail cell while awaiting trial, prosecutors set their sights on the last surviving defendant: Ferdinand "Freddy" Augello.
And the jury agreed, convicting Augello in just two hours Tuesday afternoon of the murder of April Kauffman, a veterans' advocate and radio host shot to death May 10, 2012, inside the bedroom of the Linwood home she shared with her husband, a prominent endocrinologist in the Atlantic County area.
Her daughter, Kimberly Pack, sobbed in the front row as the verdict was read. Augello was stoic during the reading of the verdict, but as he was led out, he turned and addressed the media.
"This is for the media: I did not kill Mrs. Kauffman, nor did I pay anyone to kill Mrs. Kauffman," he said. Augello, a former president of the New Jersey Shore Pagan's Outlaw Motorcycle Club, blamed a fellow member of the club, Joseph Mulholland, who admitted driving the gunman to the Kauffman residence, and testified against Augello.
Augello was convicted of April Kauffman's murder and of plotting to have James Kauffman killed in jail, after he found out the doctor had named him as a suspect in a letter his attorney wrote to prosecutors. He was also convicted of racketeering in connection with the vast drug ring prosecutors say was run out of Kauffman's office.
After the verdict, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner, who took over the case in 2017, reflected on James Kauffman's absence from the trial of a murder that witnesses testified he had long been plotting. Kauffman killed himself two weeks after being charged with murder in January 2018.
"Ultimately Dr. Kauffman was tried by a higher jury," Tyner said. "It cost him his life. He couldn't live with the weight of the evidence that would have been presented against him on this date.
"I don't think much of Jim Kauffman," he said. "I think of the victim, April Kauffman, all the family members that were affected by his actions. I think of his role in flooding the market with Oxycodone. His legacy is all of the tragedy he left behind, the lives that were lost, and the people who were affected by his mispractice of medicine."
In closing statements, the two sides laid out contrasting versions of Augello's role in the tragedy.
Was Augello, also known as Miserable, a one-man crime wave and a past president of a Cape May County outlaw motorcycle gang, busy overseeing a lucrative OxyContin ring in concert with James Kauffman, acting as his fixer by shopping around the doctor's desire to have his wife killed?
Or was Augello simply a fringe player, "Freddy Guitars," a laid-back guy with a long ponytail, more interested in his sign and guitar business than in hardcore crime, a man who knew about the doctor's wishes — lots of Pagans seemed to know that Kauffman wanted his wife dead, according to trial testimony and recorded calls — but was just a "patsy," set up by his cohorts to take the blame?
"For years, the defendant has been moving people around him as pawns on the chessboard," prosecutor Seth Levy told the Atlantic County jury in closing arguments Tuesday morning. The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon. "He thought he could hide from it, in the shadows. In this trial, the defendant's responsibility has caught up with him."
Levy contended that Augello was on the other end of 300 calls from a burner cell phone Kauffman used in the months leading up to the murder — calls that abruptly stopped the day before April Kauffman was shot to death in her Linwood bedroom. Augello's ex-wife, Beverly, testified that she picked up an envelope with "Fred" on it from Kauffman's office the day of the murder, allegedly containing his payment, Levy said.
"April Kauffman, grandmother, friend, champion for veterans' rights, murdered in her bed," Levy said. "And yes, this defendant was absolutely responsible for that.
"When you move the pawns out of the way, all you have staring back at you is 'Freddy crime wave,' 'Miserable,' Ferdinand Augello," Levy said. "The leader of a racketeering organization, hands dripping red with the blood of April Kauffman."
But defense attorney Mary Linehan said the case was built on little but the unreliable testimony of witnesses who were trying to save themselves, including paid witness Andrew Glick and Joseph "Irish Joe" Mulholland, who has admitted driving the gunman, the late Francis Mulholland, to Linwood on the morning of the murder, where the door was left open and April Kauffman was asleep in her bedroom.
She called the state's case "prosecution by multiple choice," which she said was "not a becoming prospect."
"If the prosecutor is not firmly convinced of everything, how can you be?" Linehan said.
She decried the lack of evidence offered by the prosecution: no ballistics reports, no pharmacy records. She said Augello did not live in the area where the calls went to.