Latest Developments In The Kauffman Case
MAYS LANDING − A Superior Court judge ordered Dr. James Kauffman held in jail until his trial on weapons charges stemming from the physician's arrest last week after he showed a gun when investigators arrived to search his medical offices.
Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury's decision followed more than an hour of arguments from prosecutors and Kauffman's defense attorney, and included the playing of a dramatic video of last Tuesday's standoff captured by a police officer's body camera.
On the video, the officers can be heard repeatedly instructing Kauffman to drop the gun, even as they assure him they were there to execute a search warrant for his offices, not arrest him.
Authorities said the search was not related to their ongoing investigation into the unsolved death of Kauffman's wife, April Kauffman, 47. Details on the purpose of the search have not been provided.
April Kauffman was found shot several times in the couple's Linwood home May 10, 2012. Last month, prosecutors sought an order to obtain a DNA sample of Dr. Kauffman. Judge DeLury's ruling on that request was sealed. Dr. Kauffman has never been named a suspect in his wife's death.
During Monday's hearing, defense attorney Edwin Jacobs took issue with description of his client “brandishing” the gun, a 9mm Ruger handgun during the standoff.
Kauffman did not point the weapon at police, he pointed the weapon to himself, Jacobs said.
First Assistant County County Prosecutor Seth Levy, however, argued the doctor is a flight risk, adding he owns four homes, two in New Jersey, one in Pennsylvania and one in Arizona. Kauffman also has the means to flee and has an active passport, Levy said.
During the hearing, Levy revealed authorities found a loaded gun in Kauffman’s vehicle that was parked in the office lot along with approximately $100,000 in cash that was in the office.
Levy told DeLury he will attempt to have Kauffman's medical license suspended but did not elaborate.
Jacobs said a psychiatric evaluation that followed Kauffman's arrest found his client to be depressed but not harmful; the report suggested he could be released.
The defense attorney also said Kauffman remained within the "curtilage" of his medical office and therefore he did not break the law by having a gun. Curtilage is described as the area of land attached to a house or an office.
DeLury did not take long to make his decision after hearing arguments. He ordered Kauffman to be held until trial. A date has not yet been set.
Immediately after the proceedings, Jacobs told reporters outside the courtroom he will appeal the decision within the next day or so and that he hopes the case will be heard quickly.
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When questioned by reporters about the search executed last week, Jacobs shed some light on what law enforcement might have been lookhing for, saying there were a total of five search warrants. He said the warrants indicated authorities are looking at something regarding health care fraud and a homicide. When pressed for more information about the homicide, the defense attorney said there was nothing specific regarding that.
At the other end of the hallway, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner told reporters he believed the ruling and the system were protecting citizens from someone who has the means to be at risk to flee.
Tyner also said that while the psychological assessment Jacobs referred to was a valid tool, it does not take into account other factors, such as the means to flee, but rather looks only at whether a defendant has any prior offenses. Tyner said he believes it is important to have a more blended view of defendants.
While DeLury said he understood Dr. Kauffman's strong ties to the community, he also weighed the charges stemming from the armed police standoff, the personal observation of law enforcement, the statement of the defendant on the video, the video itself and the physical evidence seized.