MAYS LANDING — A retired Pagans motorcycle gang leader will remain in jail on witness tampering charges after posting a semi-nude photo of one of the witnesses in the April Kauffman murder trial, calling her a “lying rat.”
“The defendant had disseminated the names of those who are witnesses in the upcoming trial of the defendant’s Pagan associate, Ferdinand Augello,” Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. said in his decision Friday. “The clear purpose of the defendant’s actions is to communicate to others the danger and harm that could be expected if one is identified as ‘rat’ in view of the Pagans.”
John “Egyptian” Kachbalian, 56, of Egg Harbor Township, is charged with witness tampering, invasion of privacy and cyber harassment after allegedly posting threatening messages to Facebook in August regarding Beverly Augello, a former defendant and now a witness in the Kauffman trial. Beverly Augello has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess drugs in the case and has agreed to testify for the state.
Kachbalian was remanded to the Atlantic County jail after his appearance. If convicted, he faces a possible 20-year prison sentence.
An Egg Harbor Township man and former Pagans motorcycle gang leader is in jail following cha…
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy argued that even though the court’s public safety assessment, or PSA, would recommend that Kachbalian be released, he has an extensive criminal history that dates to 1981 and includes three federal racketeering charges. He also argued that Kachbalian broke DeLury’s July gag order, which bars anyone associated with the case from speaking about it, including attorneys from both sides of the aisle.
“Witnesses are, in fact, intimidated,” Levy said. “They’ve reached out to the state and shown they’re intimidated.”
He added any attempt to alter or stop their testimony is a danger to the community at large.
Even though Philadelphia attorney Stephen Patrizio, Kachbalian’s lawyer, admitted he’s not familiar with New Jersey’s process, he disagreed with the state’s motion of detention, calling the PSA an “excellent report card” that would support Kachbalian’s release.
In addition, he argued the post contains no evidence of threats, and it’s a free-speech issue.
Patrizio said everyone knows the word “rat” equates to “cooperator.”
“I don’t think that escalates to intimidation,” he said.
He also described Kachbalian’s extensive medical problems, saying “he’s a very sick man,” outlining his knee and hip replacements, bad heart and long list of required medications, saying they would agree to court-imposed conditions such as home monitoring.
“We can paint somebody with a broad brush about being a Pagan with the background that he has and that he knows people, but that’s just not where we are today,” Patrizio said. “What this is about was a post where he believed he had a First Amendment right to do it and that it wasn’t even a hint of trying to intimidate or threaten or cause people to change their testimony.”
The post is still up on Facebook, even though the state has tried to have the social media network take it down, Levy said.
DeLury said the state showed Kachbalian’s long association with the Pagans, an organization known for violence and drug-dealing. If released, Kachbalian would be “an immediate and clear danger” to the people he’s identified on his Facebook page, DeLury said.
Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello is charged with the 2012 murder of veterans advocate April Kauffman, 47, and conspiracy to murder her husband, Dr. James Kauffman, 68, of Linwood. James Kauffman was also charged in his wife’s murder but killed himself while in custody in Hudson County in January.
Opening statements in Augello’s trial are slated to begin Monday.