Closing arguments in April Kauffman murder trial

‘There’s not once piece of evidence that proves I killed this woman,’ Ferdinand ‘Freddy’ Augello says regarding the murder of April Kauffman.

MAYS LANDING — The man convicted of the 2012 murder of April Kauffman is still trying his case, pointing out what he believes are unanswered questions, loose ends and lies.

His hands move over a round lunch table at the Atlantic County jail, creating a map he believes illustrates his innocence.

The fact that jurors didn’t see it that way when they convicted Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and leading a drug ring doesn’t deter him from still trying to prove his innocence. He keeps going back to the chief assistant prosecutor’s comment after his guilty verdict — that no one piece of evidence was the “smoking gun” that swayed the jury.

“That’s because there’s not once piece of evidence that proves I killed this woman,” he said, speaking urgently from the visitation room of the jail, where he will be held until sentencing Dec. 5.

Augello has been outspoken from his jail cell since February, when an unidentified intermediary began posting statements and court discovery on Facebook, addressed to friends of the “Free Freddy Movement.”

Augello also gave several interviews from the jail to The Press of Atlantic City and other news outlets leading up to the trial.

But once the trial began, Augello was silent in the courtroom, forgoing the opportunity to testify.

It’s a decision that could have been made for a myriad of reasons, experts say, but seems out of character for a person so vocal about his innocence.

And Augello, speaking again now that the trial is over, said he decided not to testify during the trial on the advice of his lawyers, Mary Linehan and Omar Aguilar, and that he regrets it now.

Linehan declined to comment, citing attorney-client privilege.

“I should have taken the witness stand,” he said, popping a piece of candy from the breast pocket of his orange jumpsuit into his mouth. He repeats that witnesses lied on the stand, and questions he has about the 2013 overdose death of Francis Mulholland, the man alleged to have fired the fatal shot.

There are a few reasons why a defendant might choose not to take the stand, but it’s always the defendant’s choice, said J.C. Lore, clinical professor of law at Rutgers Law School.

While some don’t take the stand because of decisions about strategy and evidence, Lore explained, one of the most common reasons that a defendant may choose not to testify is because they could be what lawyers call a “bad witness.”

“It’s a tremendous amount of pressure to testify at a trial, and then to be cross-examined by a prosecutor, so even when they’re telling the truth, sometimes witnesses don’t hold up very well,” he said.

However, the jury is always instructed not to count it against a defendant if they decide not to testify, Lore said, as it’s a constitutional right to choose.

Lore is adamant no defendant benefits from talking on social media.

“It’s usually to their detriment in one of two ways,” Lore said. “It can be used against them during the trial if they say something incriminating, and it can be used against them at sentencing.”

Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Daniel McGarrigle agrees. He said when a defendant, or even their family members, speaks out on social media, it can do more harm than good, and it can be frustrating for their lawyer.

“The client’s natural response is, you want to clear your name, but you’ll get your time in court,” he said, adding the defendant can choose to testify during the trial or at sentencing. However, “just because people are comfortable speaking out on social media, doesn’t mean they’re comfortable speaking in a courtroom.”

Public posts can change the way the prosecutor views the defendant, and how they view and handle the case, especially if the prosecutor feels they or their victim is being attacked.

“This isn’t the time for rational debate, where anyone will be listening to rational statements,” McGarrigle said he tells his clients. “The fire is burning because this is the case of the day. Fires die without oxygen, so stop talking.”