James Kauffman’s suicide note is an apparent “deathbed statement” and is pertinent to the case against his former co-defendants, a Superior Court judge has ruled.
The six-page letter that includes details of events leading up to the killing of April Kauffman and its aftermath must be produced — without redaction — as part of discovery in the case, Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury wrote in a 10-page ruling obtained by BreakingAC.
FULL RULING: Suicide Letter Ruling
The order protects the letter from being shared beyond the defense attorneys and prosecutor involved in the case. The defendants may read the letter in the presence of their counsel, but may not keep a copy, DeLury ruled.
James Kauffman was charged with his wife’s May 10, 2012, killing and as the leader of an Oxycontin ring when he was found dead of an apparent suicide inside his Hudson County Jail cell Jan. 29.
A six-page handwritten letter found in his cell apparently details how the alleged enterprise grew.
“The Kauffman Letter sets forth details related to the involvement of the ‘Pagans’ and certain named defendants pertaining to the allegations of drug distribution and the homicide of April Kauffman,” DeLury wrote. It “purports to describe how the author became involved with the distribution of prescription narcotics and how that involvement gave rise to threats against him and his family that culminated in the death of April Kauffman. The author then outlined his continuation in the narcotics distribution after the homicide.”
The ruling is the result of a motion on behalf of Ferdinand Augello, the only living person charged in the death of the beloved veterans advocate and local radio host.
Augello was also indicted with six others in a drug ring that allegedly profited from sale of Oxycontin pills obtained through prescriptions by the doctor.
The note has long been a thing of mystery, after the disgraced doctor was found hanged in his cell.
Mary Linehan, one of two public defenders assigned to Augello, told DeLury last month that her request for the note resulted in an answer — six white pages with every word blacked out. Now, she and attorneys for the five remaining co-defendants will get copies of the suicide note. The seventh person indicted in the drug ring, Joseph Mulholland, pleaded guilty June 21, calling Augello “the boss.”
The six-page handwritten letter contains about 1,600 words, and includes a note attached, DeLury wrote.
While the letter is not addressed to anyone in particular, the attached note says, “These 6 yellow pages are for my attorney and my wife. Thank you in advance for your help. Sincerely, JMK MD,” the judge wrote.
Hudson County turned down media requests for the note, citing attorney-client privilege and marital privilege, since it was addressed to Kauffman’s attorney and wife, Carole Weintraub.
But the letter also was denied to them several times, according attorney Lou Barbone, who said he was told the investigation is ongoing.
That’s the same thing the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office was told when they received a copy of the note, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy told the judge during a hearing June 7.
ABC’s “20/20” was able to get a copy for its June 22 special on the case, “Family Secrets.”
While the news program did not show the entire note, they did provide excerpts, and had experts talk about the letter.
“I cannot live like this,” Kauffman wrote, according to the program. “I, no matter what anybody says, did not do anything to my wife.”
He then talks about how it was April Kauffman who introduced him to the Pagans.
“April came to me and said would I like to go to a motorcycle rally … meet some of her friends,” the excerpts shows. “I was slightly shocked to say the least that they had the colors of Pagans’.”
Barbone said he found it “despicable” that the national news program was able to obtain a copy but that he and his client — to whom it was meant — continued to be denied.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner declined to answer questions from BreakingAC asking if he was concerned about the letter being leaked, especially since it was being considered as possible evidence in the homicide and drug ring cases.