Last defendant rejects plea deal, opts for trial
A woman who pleaded guilty to her part in a drug ring tied to the late Dr. James Kauffman was given a suspended sentence Thursday.
Meanwhile, the sole holdout in the case rejected a deal that would have him serve no jail time nor offer testimony against anyone else in the case.
He will go to trial in June.
Cheryl Pizza, who now lives in South Carolina, was the first person sentenced under a plea deal with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.
She and four others — including her estranged husband, Glenn Seeler — previously testified at the trial of Ferdinand Augello, who was sentenced to a life sentence plus 30 years on Wednesday, as a leader of a drug network and for setting up the 2012 killing of Kauffman’s wife, April Kauffman.
Pizza, 37, admitted where she got her drugs the day Ocean City police arrested her in 2013, attorney Kevin Smith said. That was the year after April Kauffman was found dead in the bedroom of her Linwood home.
“I just wish I’d never met that man, Glenn Seeler,” Pizza said before Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury gave her a three-year suspended sentence.
Pizza and Seeler are still married, but live in different states, and have restraining orders against one another. He allegedly verbally abused his wife, who suffers from post-traumatic stress as a result of her abusive marriage, Smith said.
Pizza shot Seeler years ago during a fight over a cell phone. Both gave different accounts of how that happened when they gave their pleas in July. Both agreed the shot came through a door.
They could not be in court at the same time due to the restraining orders.
Meanwhile, Paul Pagano will go on trial in June, after rejecting a plea offer from the Prosecutor’s Office that would have him serve probation on a drug charge.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Pagano said outside the courtroom.
He said he only got prescription pills from the doctor, noting he still is on the same legal prescription with a new doctor.
“Why would I admit to doing something wrong that I still do and it’s legal?” he asked.
His attorney, Chuck Peruto Jr., does not have an opening for trial until the summer. He had an associate stand in for him Thursday. But Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury requested a day Peruto could come to set the trial schedule. That date is now set for Jan. 4.