A note discovered in Dr. James Kauffman’s jail cell after his apparent suicide will be seen by his co-defendants on trial for an array of charges, including the murder of his wife April Kauffman, and running a drug ring, a judge has ruled.
In a July 9 decision, Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury wrote “certain aspects of the Kauffman Letter are relevant to the investigation of this matter by both sides.”
The six-page letter was apparently written by Kauffman at the Hudson County jail, where he was being held on murder charges in his wife’s 2012 death. Kauffman was found dead January 26. DeLury’s decision states the letter was “not addressed to anyone in particular,” but an attached note states that “these six yellow pages are for my attorney and wife,” signed “JMK MD.”
The letter was in the possession of Hudson County. An Open Public Records Request for the letter by The Press of Atlantic City earlier this year was denied saying the letter was addressed only to Kauffman’s wife, Carole Weintraub, and his attorney, Edwin Jacobs. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said in court the state did have a copy of the letter, but it was unofficial.
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DeLury’s decision notes the letter appears to be “a ‘deathbed statement,’ with respect to the state’s allegations that gave rise to the charges in the indictment.”
The letter appears to describe how Kauffman became involved with the distribution of the prescription drugs and how that led ultimately to the death of April Kauffman, according to DeLury. “The author then outlined his continuation in the narcotics distribution after the homicide,” the decision states.
Due to the personal nature of the letter, DeLury has ruled full copies will be provided to the defense attorneys only and those copies can be viewed by the defendants but not reproduced.
The letter was requested last month by public defender Mary Linehan, attorney for alleged murder co-conspirator and Pagan’s Motorcycle Club leader Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello. Linehan was joined in her request by several defense attorneys for the six other people charged in the case, which includes an opioid drug ring allegedly run out of Kauffman’s endocrinology office.
During a recent court hearing, Linehan told DeLury a copy she re-ceived was so redacted she couldn’t read it.
Linehan was not available Wednesday for comment.
Charles Peruto Jr., attorney for co-defendant Paul Pagano, who joined in the request for the letter, said DeLury’s decision was “proper.”
“If it’s relevant to any portion, he’s got to let it go, and he just followed the law and let it go,” Peruto said Wednesday.
Co-defendant Tabitha Chapman’s attorney, Jim Grimley, said he also has not seen the note but plans to get a copy. Chapman is charged with racketeering related to the drug ring. Grimley said he is unsure how the note will affect her case, if at all.
“I’ve got to read it first,” he said.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner declined to comment.
Peruto said he had not had a chance to view the letter yet. He said he believes Kauffman knew what he was writing when he wrote the letter.
“He knew it would affect the case,” Peruto said.
A portion of the note shown during an episode of ABC’s “20/20,” prime time television news magazine program which aired last month, claimed it was April who introduced James Kauffman to the Pagans.
Peruto said he was unsure how “20/20” was able to view the note before even the judge in the case did.
“It’s puzzling,” he said.
Meanwhile, Grimley said he still is awaiting 4,000 pages of discovery in the case against Chapman. Chapman, who pleaded not guilty, has not accepted a plea deal offered by the state and no trial date has been scheduled, he said.
Peruto’s client, Paul Pagano, an alleged Pagans leader and co-conspirator in the drug ring, was able to have his case separated from the other defendants. Peruto said he believes the case is an “easy win” for Pagano.
“I think that the state was assuming that people were going to come in and cooperate and say something about Paul Pagano, that he sold them some of these opioids, but nobody’s come forward. There isn’t anybody out there,” Peruto said.
Augello, charged in both the murder and drug ring, will have his case go to trial Sept. 11.