PORTLAND — A Gorham man who is charged with molesting three children younger than 12 made his initial court appearance Wednesday, as police recovered a computer that they couldn’t find in an earlier search.

Michael R. Emerson, 48, appeared in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court looking gaunt and unsteady, his hands cuffed in front of the orange shirt he was issued at the county jail after his arrest on Tuesday.

Emerson is charged with assaulting three children, and police are trying to determine whether there might be additional victims.

Judge William Broderick ordered Emerson held in jail unless he could post $25,000 cash or $100,000 in property.

Frye Island Police Chief Rod Beaulieu said Emerson listed himself as a volunteer with a youth group from 2005 to 2010 in an application to volunteer for another group. That application was approved on Dec. 8, 2011.

Beaulieu would not name the groups, which he said are high-quality organizations that are very protective of children.

None of the allegations against Emerson involves volunteer work, police said.

Joan McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Girls Scouts in Maine, said Emerson applied to be a volunteer with the group late last year but did not complete the extensive training or register to be a chaperone.

“He did not register, which is required, and he did not complete the training, which is required,” McDonald said. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s not a volunteer.”

Emerson has no criminal convictions in Maine, according to the State Bureau of Identification.

Last week, Emerson’s lawyer, Robert Levine, arranged for Emerson to turn himself in on Friday after he was charged with unlawful sexual contact on two girls younger than 12. He posted $10,000 bail and was released immediately.

News reports about his arrest led a Gorham couple to discuss the case with their son, and they learned that Emerson had assaulted him, police said in reports filed with the court.

The boy told police that Emerson had fondled his genitals and threatened to cut off his penis if he told anyone.

Police arrested Emerson again on Tuesday. Prosecutors asked that bail be $50,000 cash or $200,000 property.

Levine argued that Emerson has no criminal record, has strong ties to the community and is not a risk to flee. He said the $10,000 bail set the previous week would be adequate.

But Broderick raised the bail to $25,000 and ordered Emerson, if released, not to have any contact with children, not to have access to computer equipment, not to possess pornography and not to leave the state.

Emerson’s parents attended the hearing.

His lawyer said afterward that the arrest has been hard on Emerson’s family. Levine also said the bail is reasonable, given the serious charges

Police received the first reports of unlawful sexual contact from a Department of Health and Human Services caseworker who had learned of an incident from a child’s family member.

The girl reported that Emerson had touched her genitals through her clothing and had done the same to another girl. She also told of pornographic videos that Emerson had watched, including one showing a girl in a kiddie pool.

The incident occurred at Emerson’s camp on Frye Island in August, according to court documents.

Police interviewed Emerson and he denied the allegations. When he left the house a short time later, he took with him a computer hard drive, telling his wife he needed it for his job as a self-employed computer programmer, according to court papers.

Gorham and Frye Island police later searched the couple’s home at 40 Dow Road in Gorham and their camp at 1044 Middle Beach Road on Frye Island, in Sebago Lake.

Police on Frye Island noted that a desk upstairs had monitors and keyboards but it looked like a computer had been removed. They found a device for watching Internet content on a television monitor, which could also be used to record video, said Beaulieu, the police chief.

In Gorham, police seized computer equipment, compact discs and other digital media, including a tape identified in the inventory as being labeled “Emerson’s sick movie.”

Beaulieu said police searched Wednesday at an apartment at 175 Ossippee Trail in Gorham, where Emerson has been staying, and found the missing computer components.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com