BANGOR — The state’s former top drug prosecutor, convicted on seven child pornography charges and of contempt for fleeing the state while on bail pending appeal, was sentenced Wednesday to more than 15 years in federal prison.

James M. Cameron, 52, formerly of Hallowell and Rome, apologized to the judge and to child pornography victims and to his family Wednesday just prior to his sentencing in U.S. District Court.

“I freely admit that late in 2006 and throughout 2007 at a difficult time in my life I became addicted to child pornography…,” Cameron told the judge. “I did it and I’m guilty because I did it.”

He added, “My deepest apologies of all go to victims of child pornography.”

Cameron spoke rapidly initially, slowing down as he went on to describe his change of attitude over the past two years behind bars.

It was the second sentencing hearing for Cameron. After the first sentencing, several of his child pornography convictions were overturned by an appeals court and he fled Maine while he was free on bail.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Fisk Malone, sought a sentence of between 24 and 30 years, within the guidelines set by U.S. District Court Chief Judge John A. Woodcock Jr.

“That second crime is frankly very disturbing to the court,” Woodcock said just prior to setting the term of imprisonment. “The second crime does not speak well to the defendant’s character.”

He said Cameron’s flight caused the government extreme expense and put the U.S. Marshals at risk.

Woodcock went through a series of sentences in federal child pornography cases in Maine prior to imposing the sentence.

He repeated some of the conclusions he had stated at the original sentencing hearing in March 2011.

Prior to Cameron’s child pornography activities, the judge said he saw a person who was ” intelligent, upstanding and working hard in a position of public trust.”

Woodcock said he agreed with the defense attorney that there was no explanation for why Cameron began downloading “images of children being raped.”

Cameron’s attorney, David Beneman, had requested a sentence of 78 months on all the charges.

Cameron came into the courtroom shackled, wearing a short-sleeved khaki jail uniform with the Strafford County (N.H.) Department of Corrections on the back. His previously dark hair is now mostly gray.

Wednesday’s sentencing hearing attracted more than 20 people, including a half dozen members of the media, Lt. Glenn Lang of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit, state Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, and two of Cameron’s brothers.

Woodcock asked Cameron several initial questions to determine his competency and then about material in a presentencing report by the federal probation office.

Cameron’s answered Woodcock’s questions in a strong voice.

At Cameron’s first sentencing hearing in March 2011 on 13 convictions related to child pornography, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

On Wednesday, Beneman confirmed to the judge that Cameron now admits the conduct in the counts for which he was convicted.

Woodcock said this was an unusually complicated case with a number of issues, including a request from a victim in the Jan.-Feb. series for $5,400 restitution for a year of counseling. Woodcock said a letter from the girl’s mother is “truly heartbreaking.” He said he hoped Congress would create a national victim’s fund.

In this case, however, following a brief chat in court the defense and prosecution agreed to a stipulated restitution of $2,500.

The prosecutor says in a sentencing memo, which she recapped Wednesday in court, that Cameron’s sentence should be longer because of “his gross abuse of his state position” as chief drug prosecutor in the Maine attorney general’s office.

“He committed his crimes on work time, falsifying work records to make it appear he was working when he was home trading child pornography. The lack of scrutiny he enjoyed as a supervisor gave him the freedom to be gone for hours undetected,” Malone wrote. “He exploited his position as a state prosecutor to make his crime possible; indeed, to fund it.”

She continues, “For at least two years of his life, he indulged a fascination with images depicting children engaged in sex acts. For hours every day, he searched for them, viewed them, saved them, shared them with others, talked graphically about them, and masturbated to them. He did this while he was being paid to work as a prosecutor for the State of Maine. He did this while he was home, while he was on business trips, while he was on vacation with his family. He did this despite knowing he would likely lose his job, his family and his reputation over it. When he was caught, he minimized his involvement.”

She told the judge, “He was committing this crime while he was paid to do (prosecutorial) work. We’re maintaining he was doing this on the backs of Maine taxpayers.”

She said Cameron initially blamed his autistic son and later “mounted a scorched earth defense” before he took flight while on bail and forged checked to fund his run. “Nothing about James Cameron’s case is average,” Malone told the judge.

Beneman, who has represented Cameron for the past two years, said, “Jim Cameron did not handle the situation well. He handled it poorly at almost every juncture.”

Beneman argued that the child pornography sentence should be closer to the five-year minimum.

“This is a pretty average distribution case,” Beneman told the judge, saying it should be distinguished from cases where the child pornography is produced or captured on video. Beneman said none of the child pornography was found on state computers.

Woodcock interrupted Beneman’s argument to ask about Cameron’s character.

Woodcock said he sees “a man who is selfish, who is arrogant and who is not willing to abide by the rules the rest of us abide by.”

He said he was reluctant to release him on bail “because he had shown a remarkable lack of self-control regarding his obsession with child pornography.” Woodcock said he was worried Cameron might do “something untoward” involving children or kill himself.

“I just didn’t think he would run,” Woodcock said.

Woodcock said Cameron “deliberately, consciously, willfully was in contempt of this court. He required as a consequence of his actions virtually a nationwide manhunt to track him down,” and said he was located by authorities close to the Mexican border because he kept checking his ATM to see if the $40,000 in checks he forged had gone through.”

Beneman said, “He hurt himself by going on the lam.”

He said Cameron has changed during the two years he’s been held in Stafford.

The offenses in the remaining counts occurred June through December 2007; and included 150-300 child pornography photos rather than a longer period and 300-600 images that were considered at his previous sentencing hearing in March 2011.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams