A Pagans Motorcycle Club member was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison on charges he plotted the murder of popular radio host April Kauffman in order to protect a pill-dealing scheme he had setup with her husband.
Ferdinand Augello, 62, was found guilty on Oct. 2 of murder, murder conspiracy, racketeering and drug charges after only a few hours of jury deliberations.
At his sentencing Wednesday morning before Judge Bernard DeLury, Augello, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, launched into a lengthy speech denying his role in Mrs. Kauffman’s death and blamed Joseph Mulholland, a witness who testified in the case.
He denied that he led a drug trafficking ring and said he was the “fall guy” for the crime, and that prosecutors had greatly overstated his capacity for criminal behavior.
“I am no John Gotti,” he said.
Augello was one of eight charged with involvement in the drug ring that relied on oxycodone prescriptions from James Kauffman, April’s husband and an endocrinologist who practiced in Linwood.
Augello’s statement, which repeated those points several times, followed an emotional victim impact statement from Kim Pack, April Kauffman’s daughter, who spoke of more than six years of pain and constantly reliving the frantic call from James Kauffman on May 10, 2012 telling her over and over, “mom’s dead.”
“What most do not realize is the darkness James Kauffman brought to our lives,” she said of the doctor. “He was evil, manipulative, abusive, abrasive and narcissistic.”
“For the first time since the jury returned the verdict, I feel alive,” Pack said. “Over the years I felt like I’ve been dead myself.”
She spoke highly of her mother April, who had Kim at 17, as a dedicated veterans advocate who was trying to start a program to help vets with PTSD before her death.
She regrets that no one came forward to stop the crime before it happened. “The defendants made a choice to stay quiet,” Pack said. “One phone call, and none of this would be happening.”
But despite all she’s been through, for her own sake, she has to forgive those responsible and enjoy the rest of her life, she said.
“Forgive those who trespass against us,” she said.
Her voice shook more with emotion as she neared the end of the statement. Judge DeLury appeared to wipe a tear from his eye too.
At trial, the jury heard witnesses — including some of those charged, who flipped against Augello — describe “appointments” with the doctor that were mostly a cover to get scripts for oxycodone pills that they would later use, give to Augello, or sell themselves, if they paid Augello a fee.
But the business was in danger after April Kauffman threatened to spill details of the pill ring and the fact that Kauffman was not actually a Vietnam War veteran.
That’s when the doctor started asking around for people to kill her, including Augello, who in turn made the offer to several Pagans, prosecutors have said.
Ultimately, Francis Mulholland was driven to the Kauffman home on Woodstock Drive in Linwood early on May 10, 2012, Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy argued. The doors were open and someone gave him a gun, with which he shot April Kauffman twice in her bedroom.
Mulholland later died of a drug overdose in 2013 at 46. Augello also placed the blame on him during his speech.
The pill ring continued for five years after April Kauffman’s death. But in June 2017, James Kauffman was arrested after a standoff with police, which attempted to serve a warrant for a weapons charge.
Augello started talking about having Kauffman killed in jail, becoming suspicious of him after seeing a letter from Kauffman’s attorney urging the investigation of Augello and Mulholland, prosecutors said.
Kauffman was later transferred to the Hudson County Jail after authorities became aware of threats on his life; he later hanged himself in his cell when his cellmate was in court for the day.
Mary Linehan, who defended Augello with attorney Omar Aguilar, had called it a “too-big-to-fail” prosecution in her opening statement, critiquing the money spent on travel and lodging for witnesses. She later called for a mistrial on the ninth day of the trial, saying documents found in a former Pagan’s home contained her name and created a conflict.
She also had accused the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office of withholding evidence in the case, and reiterated those claims after three staffers wrote in a letter about it. Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner has repeatedly denied that claim. Linehan did not answer a call requesting comment Wednesday afternoon.
Tyner said at a press conference after the sentencing that he “will allow the powers that be” to examine the situation.
He also said claims made in Augello’s speech – among them that Andrew Glick, the star witness, was buying drugs with his payments from the office – are “the ramblings of a man who is going away for 55 years” – referring to the time before parole eligibility, when Augello would be 117.
“It was his last opportunity to address the public…he was willing to blame everyone except for himself,” Tyner said.
Judge Bernard DeLury later denied all requests for a new trial including the one based on the letter from staffers. On Wednesday, Linehan said she could not get the attorney for the three staffers to certify the letter.
Court records show the hearings for most of the remaining co-defendants are now scheduled for Feb. 7 in DeLury’s courtroom.