December 2, 2012

The fall of James Cameron

He was a respected Maine prosecutor before being convicted of having child pornography and fleeing.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Steve Rowe, Maine's former attorney general, was his boss for eight years. Court documents referred to Cameron as a "close advisor" to Rowe, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.

Reached by telephone last week, Rowe was silent for a long moment when Cameron's name came up.

"I'm not going to talk about that," he said. "I'm sorry."

FASCINATED BY WATCHES

Cameron and his wife, Barbara, married when he was 22. They had two children, a boy and a girl, and owned a home in Hallowell and a camp in the desirable Belgrade Lakes area.

One of Cameron's few hobbies was watches: rare, expensive watches and vintage military watches.

After he was fired in 2008, Cameron and his brother began selling watches and producing replica watches. They founded Corvus Watch Co., which has a good reputation in the business, according to online forums for horologists, or watch enthusiasts.

Cameron also had been writing a book about Barton Watson, a childhood friend who was the former CEO of a Michigan company called CyberNET Engineering. Watson amassed considerable personal wealth in part by receiving fraudulent loans and lying about his business, which funded a lavish lifestyle that he often boasted about on travel websites.

Watson committed suicide in 2004, less than a week after federal authorities raided his business on suspicion of fraud and discovered that he owed $100 million in debt.

Cameron appeared on the television show "American Greed" to talk about Watson, whose fall from grace fascinated him.

In the middle part of the last decade, coworkers at the AG's office said Cameron became less reliable around the office, although there appeared to be no obvious cause. He was gone for long stretches and often worked from home. A former secretary testified during trial that his unexplained absences prompted a running joke: "Where in the world is Jim Cameron?"

During closing arguments at the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark brought it up.

"Where in the world is Jim Cameron? We know the answer. He was at home, on his computer, trading child pornography," Clark said.

MAINE STATE POLICE NOTIFIED

On Aug. 3, 2007, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children -- a clearinghouse for referring illicit online activities -- notified Maine State Police that someone had uploaded images of child pornography onto a Yahoo account. A second referral was made on Sept. 6.

In both instances, photos of victims as young as 4 years old were viewed between 1 and 7 a.m. The Internet protocol, OR IP, address was traced to a home in Hallowell and a Yahoo account belonging to Barbara Cameron.

On Dec. 21, 2007, police searched Cameron's home and seized four computers.

According to investigators, Cameron was calm during the search, suggesting that someone from outside the home might have been responsible for the explicit images. He also said it was possible that they were downloaded by his then-12-year-old son, who is autistic.

Sgt. Glenn Lang of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit, who led the investigation, called it the "most time-consuming case we've ever done." He said two things made the case unique: the high-profile nature and Cameron's sophisticated attempts to scrub his hard drives.

"The case proves that no matter how many tools are out there, there is usually a way to find out someone's online activities," he said.

It was actually Cameron's interest in watches that helped investigators make the link. There were numerous searches about watches mixed in with searches of child pornography, supporting the assumption that it was Cameron at the keyboard.

CAMERON ADMITTED NOTHING

On Feb. 11, 2009, almost 14 months after his home was searched, Cameron was indicted by a federal grand jury on 16 counts of transporting, receiving and possessing child pornography.

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