Hours after learning his appeal of child porn charges failed and he was likely headed back to prison, Maine’s former top drug prosecutor cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and fled.
James Cameron, 50, of Rome, formerly of Hallowell, is being hunted by the U.S. Marshals Service and law enforcement nationwide, authorities said Monday. The court-ordered electronic monitoring device was a condition of release pending Cameron’s appeal of an August 2010 conviction on 13 federal charges of transportation, receipt and possession of child pornography.
Marshals said Cameron fled early Thursday morning just hours after the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld seven of the 13 convictions against him and gave the government room to re-try Cameron on six overturned convictions.
Cameron had 15 years remaining of the original 16 year sentence.
“We don’t know where he is, but we’re following up on leads anywhere and everywhere,” said Deputy Dean Knightly, who oversees the District of Maine for the Marshals Service.
Cameron was last seen in Hallowell driving a tan 1999 Audi A6, license plate 2333PL, according to marshals. That car, which he owns, is missing.
Knightly said Cameron didn’t leave a note and there is no indication he has harmed himself. Marshals have not heard of Cameron contacting anyone since fleeing, Knightly said.
Cameron visited his ex-wife, Barbara Cameron, and the couple’s 17-year-old son Wednesday afternoon in Hallowell shortly after learning of the appeal court’s decision, according to a declaration seeking bail revocation filed in the U.S. District Court in Bangor by U.S. Probation Officer Mitchell Oswald.
Barbara Cameron said her ex-husband was “not doing well” and told their son he was going back to prison, Oswald wrote.
Knightly said Barbara Cameron has been interviewed and said she doesn’t know where her ex-husband went.
The monitoring bracelet Cameron was ordered to wear indicates he returned to his home in Rome at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Knightly said someone, whom he wouldn’t identify, saw Cameron in Rome that night.
At 12:46 a.m. Thursday, the bracelet showed he left the home without authorization. An hour later, responding to what he describes as a missed call from the monitoring device, Oswald called Cameron’s home number and his cellphone and got no response. Oswald tried to call Cameron again between 7 and 8 a.m. and again failed to reach him.
Probation officers checked the Internet monitoring database on Cameron’s computer and found no Internet activity since 8:33 p.m., the night before. Oswald’s declaration said Cameron’s monitoring bracelet was connected to a land line at his home that he was required to maintain.
Probation officers and Maine State Police visited Cameron’s home around 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Knightly said he found out Cameron was gone at noon.
“Mr. Cameron and his vehicle were both gone,” Oswald wrote. “His cellphone was in the house. The laptop computer that Pretrial Services monitored as a condition of release was also gone.”
U.S. District Court Chief Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. issued a warrant for Cameron’s arrest that day.
Knightly said the Marshals Service has been actively pursuing him since Thursday.
Knightly said from time Cameron disappeared Thursday said the agency made it public Monday the agency was following up on leads.
“We immediately began looking into possible locations and whereabouts once we were notified he was missing,” said Knightly.
The Marshals Service said the hunt for Cameron was being conducted jointly with the Maine Violent Offender Task Force as well as local, county and state police.
Cameron was the chief drug crimes prosecutor in the Maine Office of the Attorney General, where he spent 18 years as an assistant attorney general.
He became the target of an investigation after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported Yahoo had found multiple images of child pornography in a Yahoo! account belonging to Cameron’s wife.
He was fired from the Office of the Maine Attorney General in April 2008 and indicted on the child pornography charges Feb. 11, 2009.
Cameron was convicted of 13 charges on Aug. 23, 2010, after a six-day non jury trial in federal court in Portland. Woodcock, who presided over the trial, imposed the sentence.
Under Cameron’s conditions of release, he was ordered to submit to active GPS monitoring, register with “all pertinent sex offender registries,” report in person to a probation officer, post an unsecured $75,000 bond, adhere to a curfew as set by a supervising officer and participate in Internet monitoring that he must pay for.
Michael A. Cunniff, Cameron’s attorney during the trial, said Monday that he could not comment on his former client’s disappearance.
Part of Cameron’s appeal of the sentence focused on the admissibility of evidence.
In an opinion released last Wednesday by circuit Judge Juan Torruella, the three-judge appeals court ruled that the indictment was sufficient, the trial venue in Maine was proper and Yahoo’s searches of Cameron’s accounts for child pornography did not violate the Fourth Amendment, so a suppression motion was properly denied.
The appeals court also said it concluded “that the district court did not err in admitting evidence from Yahoo! or the Google Hello Connection Logs.”
However, the court said Cameron should have had the opportunity to cross-examine Yahoo employees who prepared the child pornography reports. They said that allowing the reports to be admitted “violated Cameron’s rights under the confrontation clause,” and in turn tainted the CyberTipline Reports.
The case was headed back to U.S. District Court in Maine for resentencing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Clark said no decision has been made about whether to pursue a new trial.
Boston attorney Peter C. Horstmann, who represented Cameron in the appeal, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Cameron’s 26-year marriage ended in a divorce that was finalized a year after he was indicted.
Barbara Cameron was awarded primary care of the couple’s two children — ages 17 and 15 at the time of the agreement — though the court ordered shared rights and responsibilities that allowed Cameron “liberal and frequent visitation with the children.”
Barbara Cameron got ownership of the couple’s Hallowell home and Cameron got the house at Echo Valley Estates in Rome.
Cameron, who claimed an income of $25,000 a year — he earned more than $100,000 as a prosecutor — was ordered to pay $640 per month in health insurance premiums for his children and ex-wife.
Barbara Cameron also was given all of her ex-husband’s ownership shares in Michigan-based Arrow Jewelry Findings.
Neither sought alimony.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642
Michael Shepherd — 621-5632