PORTLAND — When state police detectives and a U.S. Secret Service agent knocked on the door of Maine’s top drug prosecutor nearly three years ago, James M. Cameron was calm and polite, and denied any involvement with child pornography on the Internet, two of the investigators testified Tuesday during Cameron’s trial.

According to the investigators who arrived with the search warrant on Dec. 21, 2007, Cameron suggested that someone from outside his family’s home in Hallowell might have been responsible for the explicit images found on their four computers, or that the images had been downloaded by his 12-year-old autistic son.

“When he was confronted with the allegations, he said perhaps it had something to do with the unsecured wireless network,” said Manning Jeter, the Secret Service agent who assisted the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit.

But federal prosecutors say the evidence gathered that night and over the next several months pointed not toward any outsider, but squarely at Cameron.

Cameron, 48, lost his job as an assistant state attorney general in April 2008 for reasons that have not been disclosed. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2009.

Cameron 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 bench trial that began Monday in U.S. District Court is being presided over by Judge John Woodcock Jr. It is expected to continue at least until Friday.

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.

Police began investigating Cameron in 2007 after the Web services company 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.

As it was on Monday, the testimony Tuesday was slow-going as government lawyers and Cameron’s attorney argued over rules, procedural matters and the admissibility of almost every piece of evidence.

Defense attorney Michael Cunniff was persistent in his arguments that Yahoo does not own the photographs posted by users in password-protected spaces, and that the company should not have the right to simply pore through those images.

Cunniff likened such photographs to the contents of safety deposit boxes at banks. The banks own the boxes, but they do not own the contents and they do not have the legal right to browse through them, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark disagreed. He told Judge Woodcock that all materials uploaded to Yahoo servers are business records of the company, and Yahoo has every right to report suspicious images to law enforcement agencies.

Clark expressed frustration that Cunniff has already argued the issue extensively, in pretrial motions and during both days of testimony.

Woodcock sided with Clark. He told Cunniff that the photographs do qualify as business records, although he noted that Cunniff could have another chance to argue his theory if the case ultimately goes to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

“We can talk about this issue for the rest of the week, but at some point I have to allow the government to present its case,” Woodcock said.

 

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