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
Staff Writer

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It took that long to bring an indictment, Lang said, because Cameron admitted nothing, forcing someone to pore through every file and then pinpoint the exact time each file was downloaded.

Before the case went to trial, Cameron's attorney Peter Rodway negotiated a plea agreement with U.S. Attorney Gail Malone, according to court documents, in which Cameron would plead guilty to two of the 15 counts against him. The remainder would be dropped. Cameron would probably have served less time.

But he backed out at the last minute. Rodway resigned as counsel and was replaced by a court-appointed attorney, Michael Cunniff.

During the six-day trial, details of his life and computer habits were methodically detailed. There was one point during which it appeared Cameron might take the stand in his own defense, but that never happened.

On Aug. 23, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock found Cameron guilty.

"Mr. Cameron, you had so much to lose, and now you've lost it," Woodcock said during sentencing.

Cameron didn't admit his guilt until his March 2011 sentencing.

"I am guilty and I stand here ready to face punishment with the greatest respect for the judicial process. That said, I am deeply ashamed of myself and offer no excuses for my conduct," he said. "I also want to say that I am deeply sorry for the loss and pain suffered by all victims of sexual abuse."

He received 16 years.

Bill Diamond, former secretary of state and a longtime state lawmaker from Windham, has studied sex offenders at length and recently wrote a book about the topic. In it, he describes Cameron as a cautionary tale.

"(He) illustrates the fact that sex offenders are often not the creepy looking guy everyone imagines wearing a trench coat peering at little children from behind a tree, but more likely someone who has the trust of family, friends and co-workers, which is, of course, the best disguise of all," Diamond wrote.

Cameron knew, perhaps better than anyone, about the penalties for child pornography and still couldn't stop.

"The need to view those images was likely stronger," Diamond said recently. "It's like a drug addiction."


Cameron was transferred to a federal prison in Littleton, Colo., but didn't stop trying to overturn his conviction.

A judge finally granted his release from prison pending appeal, aided in part by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that cast doubt on the government's ability to uphold the conviction.

He was released on several conditions: He would return to Maine, where his ex-wife would be responsible for him. He would adhere to a curfew. His Internet activity would be closely watched. And he would wear an electronic monitor.

After a year, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston vacated six of his convictions on the ground that certain evidence presented at trial was inadmissible because Cameron's attorney did not have the chance to question some witnesses. The appellate court upheld the remaining seven convictions.

The matter was supposed to be sent back to U.S. District Court in Maine so Cameron could be resentenced. Because almost half of the charges were dropped, it is likely his sentence might have been reduced.

Peter Horstmann, Cameron's attorney during the appeals process, said he still expects all the counts against Cameron to be vacated.

Until he fled, Cameron had adhered dutifully to his bail conditions. He had even been allowed to leave the country before he was indicted, a point prosecutors brought up initially as a concern. But Horstmann said Cameron always came back.


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