Saturday, March 8, 2014
Sometime in the dark hours of Nov. 14 or 15, James Cameron cut off the electronic monitoring bracelet that had tracked his whereabouts for 14 months.
Then he slipped quietly into the night. He hasn't surfaced since.
Former co-workers have called Cameron honest, a tough prosecutor who led a quiet life. He seemingly had few interests besides his work, except a love of watches and watchmaking, a hobby that ultimately helped trigger the criminal case against him.
Cameron disappeared less than a day after a federal appeals court in Boston upheld seven of the 13 counts he was found guilty of in his child pornography trial in 2010. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but had been out on bail for more than a year pending the appeal, likely his final chance at salvation. Now, Cameron was set to return to prison.
Family members told police that Cameron, 50, was "not doing well" in prison prior to his release. He had lost weight and his hair had gotten grayer. In court, he had to hold up the seat of his pants when he stood up. It's no surprise that a man who had spent a career fighting criminals didn't fit well among them.
So he fled, risking additional prison time, taking little more than his car, a late-model tan Audi A6, and his laptop computer.
According to police accounts, Cameron had an 11-hour head start before authorities launched a nationwide manhunt.
Noel March, the top U.S. marshal for Maine, said he's confident Cameron will be found despite the fact that he has considerable knowledge of the justice system and investigative procedures learned during 20 years as one of Maine's top prosecutors, a man who might have one day been a candidate for district attorney, attorney general or even a judge.
CAME TO MAINE FROM MICHIGAN
Cameron grew up in Michigan and graduated from the University of Detroit's Mercy School of Law in 1987. He came to Maine two years later.
He was still shy of his 30th birthday when he was hired by the Maine Attorney General's Office in 1990. Many of the assistant attorneys general who focus on drug cases are assigned to work in county district attorneys' offices. Cameron was posted in Kennebec County for many years before moving to the AG's main office.
"He seemed to have a good reputation," said Darrick Banda, who worked as an assistant district attorney in Kennebec County from 2003-08 and is now a defense attorney. "No one had anything bad to say."
Walter McKee, an Augusta attorney for many years, said he knew Cameron well and faced him in court more than once.
"He was a very competent, aggressive prosecutor, a worthy adversary, quick on his feet," McKee said.
David Crook, a former district attorney in Kennebec County who is now a defense lawyer, in a 2011 story described Cameron as "a man of integrity," and "totally honest."
Cameron built a reputation as a sharp and methodical prosecutor, but few who knew him professionally knew anything about his private life.
Banda said that at the Maine prosecutors' conference in Bar Harbor every year, many attendees would go out for drinks at the end of each day.
"He just wasn't a part of that," Banda said.
McKee lived within walking distance of Cameron but didn't interact with him outside the courtroom.
"He was a private person," McKee said.
Cameron was an adjunct faculty member at Thomas College in Waterville, teaching constitutional law from 2001-07. College officials refused to say whether Cameron was fired or left on his own.
William Stokes, the head of the criminal division for the AG's office, said he knew Cameron well but declined to talk about him. In fact, no one who still has ties to the AG's office wanted to talk about Cameron.
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