The last two defendants in the alleged James Kauffman drug ring pleaded not guilty Thursday.
Cheryl Pizza, 36, and Paul Pagano, 61, are charged with first-degree racketeering along with five others in the case that is alleged to have sparked Kauffman to have his wife killed.
Pagano became the first to have his case severed from the rest, meaning he will be tried separately and will no longer be connected to the other six defendants, including Ferdinand Augello, the man accused of setting up the May 10, 2012, hit on April Kauffman.
“I’m elated we’re going to go to trial by ourselves,” Pagano’s attorney, Charles Peruto, said outside the courtroom.
Poring over thousands of pages of discovery, Peruto said his client’s only mention is as a patient who got pills from his doctor, James Kauffman.
“How that’s a crime, I don’t know,” Peruto said. “Because he was a doctor.”
In fact, Peruto said he is so sure of his client’s innocence that he has vowed to retire if Pagano is not cleared.
“Me too,” Pagano said as he stood near his attorney outside the courtroom Thursday.
He is admittedly a former member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, but has not been active in years, Peruto said.
The Oxycontin ring allegedly benefited the Pagans, and the defendants were all either members or associates.
Both Pizza and Pagano will be back in court with the remaining defendants. But Pizza’s attorney, Kevin Smith, reminded the judge that Pizza and co-defendant Glenn Seeler cannot be there at the same time due to a restraining order that has been in effect since Pizza shot Seeler during an argument in 2015.
Pizza had said it was an accident and that she was trying to shoot the knob off the bedroom door after Seeler locked himself in there with a cell phone during an argument, according to an ABC 11 report at the time.
It is expected that several motions will be filed in the case, including possibly other defense attorneys looking to have their clients’ cases severed.