PORTLAND — Government lawyers say Maine’s former top drug prosecutor, despite extensive efforts to hide his online activities, left a digital trail that is solid enough to warrant his conviction on more than a dozen child pornography charges.

The lawyer for James M. Cameron, however, says that his client is not guilty and that the explicit photographs and messages allegedly obtained from Cameron’s home computers and Yahoo servers are “technological camouflage” for the government’s lack of proof in the case.

Those were the positions that emerged Monday during the first day of Cameron’s trial in U.S. District Court.

Cameron, 48, of Hallowell is charged with 10 counts of sending child pornography, four counts of receiving it and one count of possessing it. He waived his right to a jury. The trial is being presided over by U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr.

Police began investigating Cameron in 2007 after Yahoo reported finding child pornography in the photos of an account holder later identified as Cameron’s wife. The Yahoo reports were made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va., an organization that works with local, state and federal investigators.

According to a summary of the case prepared by prosecutors, evidence of child pornography offenses was found on four computers seized from Cameron’s home, and on the Yahoo servers.

The crimes are alleged to have occurred in 2006 and 2007.

Cameron was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2009 and has been free on $75,000 bail.

Each count of sending and receiving child pornography is punishable by a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison. Possession is punishable by as much as 10 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark passed up his opportunity to make an opening statement to Woodcock on Monday.

Michael Cunniff, Cameron’s lawyer, told the judge that the government cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Cameron who possessed, received or transmitted any of the images retrieved from the Yahoo servers.

Cameron had no access to the images in question, and he never had any intent to access them, Cunniff said.

Most of Monday was taken up by one witness, Christian Lee, a legal assistant for Yahoo. Clark and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Malone asked Lee several questions about the business practices of Yahoo, apparently in an effort to show that evidence they plan to introduce later this week is authentic and can reliably be linked to Cameron.

In pretrial motions and during the first day of the trial, Cunniff hammered at the data-mining tactics of Yahoo, and whether the information provided by the Web giant to law enforcement agencies is reliable.

Yahoo essentially acts as an agent of the government when it accesses images that are stored in password-protected folders created by users, Cunniff said.

To this point, Woodcock has rejected Cunniff’s motions and arguments along those lines, and has said the images and other documents on Yahoo servers qualify as business records of the company.

Cameron graduated in 1984 from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. He earned his law degree from the University of Detroit School of Law. He was a prosecutor in Kennebec and Somerset counties and was hired as an assistant state attorney general in 2000.

In the spring of 2008, Cameron was the state’s top drug crimes prosecutor.

He was fired in April of that year, shortly after news became public that he was under investigation.

A lawyer who previously represented Cameron said his firing was tied to other circumstances at work and was not the result of the criminal probe.

Assistant attorneys general serve at the pleasure of the attorney general and can be terminated without cause, so Cameron had no ability to appeal his firing.

His trial is expected to last at least a week.

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]