November 21, 2012

Nationwide manhunt for ex-Maine prosecutor continues

Authorities defend their response after the initial alert that James Cameron had left his home in Rome.

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

HALLOWELL – Authorities searched the home of Barbara Cameron on Tuesday as part of a nationwide manhunt for her ex-husband, James Cameron.

click image to enlarge

U.S. Marshals Service investigators search the residence of Barbara Cameron, the ex-wife of fugitive James Cameron, Tuesday afternoon in Hallowell. Authorities on Tuesday continued to hunt for Cameron, Maine’s former top drug prosecutor, who cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and fled on Thuesday, after learning his appeal of child pornography convictions had partially failed.

Andy Malloy / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Additional Photos Below

At least 10 officers from local and federal agencies searched the house and garage.

James Cameron, Maine's former top drug prosecutor, was free on bail pending his appeal of 13 federal child pornography convictions when he cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and fled last week.

Cameron, 50, was facing 15 years in federal prison – the rest of a 16-year sentence imposed in March 2011 – because a federal appeals court had issued a ruling Nov. 14 that upheld seven of his convictions.

After the ruling, Cameron went to his ex-wife's home and told his son that he was going back to jail, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Then he went to his rural home in Rome. By early Thursday, he had cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and fled.

Federal marshals got an alert at 1:47 a.m. Thursday that Cameron had left his house without authorization. They tried to call him; he didn't answer. They tried again between 7 and 8 a.m.

When they went to his home at 10:30 a.m., Cameron was gone.

Authorities said Tuesday that from the time the alarm sounded until their visit to Cameron's house, they worked to determine whether Cameron had violated his bail conditions.

Any conclusion that officials waited to check on Cameron "is not really accurate," said Donald Clark, assistant U.S. attorney. "From the moment they were aware he was missing, they were attempting to contact him and then locate him."

The U.S. Marshals Service got a warrant for Cameron's arrest later Thursday and spent days searching for him before publicly announcing the manhunt Monday afternoon.

Authorities say they believe Cameron was driving his car, a tan Audi A6, which is missing.

Law enforcement authorities across the country have been told to look for Cameron.

Cameron's whereabouts were to be monitored electronically and he was required to have a land line at his home to do so, under a court order setting conditions for his release.

Karen-Lee Moody, chief of U.S. Probation & Pretrial Services, declined to talk about Cameron Tuesday. However, she said many things can trigger an alert.

"Any time we get an alert, we have to make sure it's for real," she said.

She said that when an alert is received from the monitoring company – BI Inc. – officers verify that it is not because of equipment failure or a health issue.

"We don't just get an alert and file a warrant (for arrest)," Moody said.

Moody said her office was aware that a three-judge panel of the U.S. 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had denied Cameron's appeal, but nothing about that decision raised Cameron's risk level.

"Every case we have is a high-risk case," Moody said. "There's no such thing as a low awareness or low-risk location monitoring case."

Cameron was being monitored by radio frequency technology. Moody said her office is now monitoring 21 people in Maine – 17 of them on radio frequency monitoring and four on GPS technology.

William Bales, a professor in the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University, did a study on the effectiveness of electronic monitoring. He said in an interview Tuesday that GPS monitoring technology is more effective than radio frequency, which is tethered to a land line.

While GPS "is pretty darn effective, it's not perfect," Bales said. "If an offender decides to cut off an ankle bracelet and flee, we can't control that."

Bales theorized that if Cameron had been on GPS monitoring and removed the bracelet, it would have been known immediately. "With radio frequency, they don't know where you are every second of the day," he said.

Moody said GPS monitoring cannot always be used in heavily wooded and remote areas. Cameron's home in Rome is on a dirt road in woods.

Cameron came under investigation after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that Yahoo! had found multiple images of child pornography in an account belonging to Cameron's wife.

He was indicted on child pornography charges in February 2009 and convicted on 13 counts in August 2010.

When he was sentenced in March 2011, Cameron had already spent six months in federal prison, and the time hadn't kind to him.

He was pale and thinner than before he had gone to jail, his graying hair longer and shaggier than during his 18 years as a prosecutor for the state. He had to hold up the rear of his pants when he stood.

He had appealed to the court several times for release, claiming "his long-term employment as a state prosecutor ... makes him extremely vulnerable in prison."

A federal appeals court granted that request in August 2011, ordering him freed while his convictions were under appeal and telling the trial judge, U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock Jr., to set bail conditions. The conditions included electronic monitoring, a curfew and monitoring of Cameron's laptop.

Until Nov. 14, officers with U.S. Probation & Pretrial Services said Cameron had complied with the conditions.

Last week's appeals court ruling changed nothing about Cameron's bail conditions, Clark said. Only a judge could change those conditions, and it's not unusual for defendants – particularly in child pornography cases – to get bail pending appeal.

Clark said Cameron has not received special treatment because he was an attorney.

Clark said the court case continues, and the prosecutor's office has received an extension until Dec. 28 to file a petition seeking a review by the full 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Right now the only problem is he is accused of violating bail," Clark said. "The first order of business is to locate Mr. Cameron."

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

badams@centralmaine.com 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

A U.S. Marshal Service investigator searches the garage at the residence of Barbara Cameron, the ex-wife of fugitive James Cameron, Tuesday in Hallowell. Authorities are continuing to hunt for Maine’s former top drug prosecutor.

Andy Molloy / Staff Photographer

  


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