Time of death will play a big role in the trial of the only living person charged with April Kauffman’s killing, an attorney for the man said in court Thursday.
“Oh, definitely not guilty,” Ferdinand Augello told Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury, formally rejecting a final plea deal and moving toward a Sept. 11 trial.
The offer would have required Augello to plead guilty to murder and racketeering in exchange for a sentence at the judge’s discretion.
April Kauffman was found dead in her bedroom May 10, 2012.
Her husband, Dr. James Kauffman, and Augello were charged in January with murder in the killing, which the state says was done to keep the local radio host from outing the pair’s alleged drug enterprise.
Six others were also charged in the alleged distribution of Oxycontin. One, Joseph Mulholland, has pleaded guilty, calling Augello “the boss.”
But the time of death could be an issue at trial.
The state has alleged that the veterans advocate and local radio host was killed after her husband left for work that morning.
However, noted pathologist Dr. Michael Baden has said with “a reasonable degree of medical certainty” that he would put her death time of death at 2:10 a.m.
The letter, obtained by reporter Kevin C. Shelly, found that April Kauffman died a few hours before 5:30 a.m., when her husband routinely left the couple’s home on Woodstock Drive, just down the street from Mainland Regional High School.
In court Thursday, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said they would not be using Baden as their expert, and instead were dealing with another medical examiner.
Linehan then indicated the defense would be looking to call Baden. She said time of death would likely be an issue, but did not go into details.
“All of that was done a number of years ago,” Levy said of the previous autopsies. “We retained a medical examiner from Delaware.”
Linehan then said that was the first she heard of this latest expert, and would expect to see that in discovery.
“It is curious that the state is seeking a third medical opinion regarding Mrs. Kauffman’s time of death,” Linehan later told BreakingAC. “The first two experts they shared are consistent.”
Levy said he thought all of the reports were “going to be ready a couple of months ago,” and that he expected to give the defense attorneys the final CD by late Thursday. That CD would include an unredacted copy of the late Dr. Kauffman’s suicide note, he said.
Just weeks after the charges, the suspended doctor was found dead of an apparent suicide inside his cell in the Hudson County jail, where he was moved due to an alleged plot to kill him. Augello is charged with attempted murder in that incident.
A six-page letter Kauffman left behind was given to Augello’s attorney Mary Linehan on Thursday, more than a week after Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury found it could be used by Kauffman’s former co-defendants.
Only Linehan had received it as of Thursday, getting a copy during a meeting with Levy in the judge’s chambers before the court appearance.
The letter was previously withheld from even Kauffman’s attorney and widow, for whom the letter was meant, according to a note found with it, the judge’s ruling revealed.
Attorney Lou Barbone, who is representing Kauffman’s wife, told BreakingAC that he filed a motion to get a copy of the letter this week.
Hudson County also had refused requests from several media outlets, including BreakingAC, citing attorney-client privilege and marital privilege.
Augello will be back in court Monday, when the state will argue for a gag order in the case.
Jury selection is set to begin Sept. 11. The trial is expected to last about three weeks.