MAYS LANDING — A jury was selected Wednesday afternoon for the trial of a man charged in the 2012 murder of April Kauffman.
Eight men and seven women were chosen to make up the panel of 12 jurors and three alternates, who will decide the fate of Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello. Augello is charged in the murder of April Kauffman, conspiracy to murder Dr. James Kauffman and leading an opioid drug ring out of Dr. James Kauffman’s medical practice.
During the two-day selection process, which included a set of standard and case-specific questions posed by Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr., 50 jurors were pre-screened and moved through to the next round.
Around 100 potential jurors were excused for cause, the majority for financial hardship; their personal relationships with the Kauffmans, Augello or other witnesses; or too much prior knowledge about the case through local and national media.
Authorities allege that Augello, 62, of Upper Township, a signmaker and former member of the Pagans, an outlaw motorcycle club, and Dr. James Kauffman, hired a hitman to kill April Kauffman. Dr. James Kauffman hanged himself in January in his Hudson County jail cell after he was charged in her murder. Francis Mulholland, the hitman authorities believe killed April Kauffman, died in October 2013 from a drug overdose in his home in the Villas section of Lower Township.
After the initial group was pre-screened, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy, who represents the state, and Mary Linehan, Augello’s attorney, used seven and 11 peremptory strikes, respectively. Peremptory strikes allow the attorneys to request a juror’s removal without giving a reason.
Levy skipped from his eighth turn through his 11th, and Linehan announced that she accepted the jury on the defense’s 12th turn. Levy had 12 strikes total available to use while Linehan had 20.
During a break in jury selection, Assistant Prosecutor Chris D’Esposito moved to enter additional evidence into the trial, including statements from Beverly Augello and Cheryl Pizza, as well as “two transcribed meets” from November and December 2017 and a certification and authentication of phone records for a particular number.
Beverly Augello, 48, of Summerland Keys, Florida, and Pizza, 37, of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, were both charged with racketeering related to the alleged opioid drug ring run out of Dr. James Kauffman’s medical practice. Both have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the state.
Linehan challenged the certification of phone records the prosecutors want to use as evidence. Linehan said her records show the phone wasn’t from Sprint but Virgin Mobile, a subsidiary of the former. She also said the records were originally from the FBI and the Prosecutor’s Office obtained the records from them.
Linehan said she will argue against the state using it.
“I will take the time to review and consider it,” DeLury said. “I’ll be in a position to rule, I’m sure, once the evidence is proffered in court, and then I’ll make an appropriate decision.”
Opening statements are scheduled for Monday, and the trial is expected to take three weeks.