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Former Maine Drug Prosecutor on Lam after Jumping Bail
11/19/2012   Reported By: Susan Sharon

A high-profile sex offender from Maine is on the lam after cutting off his electronic monitoring bracelet and taking off in his car. James Cameron, a former assistant attorney general who served as Maine's top drug prosecutor, had been free on bail pending the appeal of his 16-year sentence on child pornography charges. As Susan Sharon reports, Cameron lost that appeal last week.

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What makes James Cameron's disappearance so unusual is how brazen it was, and that it was done by someone so knowledgeable about the criminal justice system. Boston attorney Peter Horstmann says in all his years practicing criminal defense he's never had a client do something like this.

Horstmann was appointed to represent Cameron (left) during his appeal and had only just learned that Cameron is missing. "I'm shocked," Horstmann says. "If this is what happened, I'm sad that it happened. But I'm more sad for other people who might lose the opportunity to be on electronic monitoring because of this."

Horstmann declined to say when he last spoke with Cameron or what his mood was like. Privately, those who know him describe Cameron as "incredibly smart" and someone capable of eluding authorities.

According to Dean Knightly, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshal's Service, 50-year-old James Cameron was last seen Wednesday night in Hallowell. Sometime around midnight he cut off his bracelet at his home in Rome, Maine, and vanished.

Knightly says anytime the device is tampered with it sends out an alert to a central monitoring company. But it's not clear how much lead time Cameron may have had. A warrant for his arrest was issued on Thursday, and Knightly says the marshals are now actively pursuing leads.

"You know, we'll make a determination, depending on how quickly he's apprehended as to whether we'll bring further criminal charges against him," Knightly says. "He is driving - last known to be driving - a tan Audi A-6, Maine license plate 2333-PL."

Cameron, who served as an assistant attorney general for 18 years, was convicted in 2010 of 13 counts of sending, receiving and possessing child pornography. He was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison and held for five months in a minimum security facility before being released on bail while his appeal was pending.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock had originally denied Cameron's request for post conviction bail, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision. Marshal spokesman Dean Knightly says Cameron was not considered a flight risk.

"The purpose of putting somebody out on supervised release is that the court has determined that they've met some sort of reasonable accommodations that he's not gonna flee, so that's why they let him out," Knightly says. "Again, that's not made at our level. We have nothing to do with that."

Among the requirements of his supervised release: that Cameron wear the electronic bracelet, that he turn over his passport and that his Internet use be limited. When seven of his 13 convictions were upheld by the appeals court last week, Knightly says Cameron must have decided he had nothing to lose by trying to flee.

His attorney, Peter Horstmann says the appeals court's decision should have given Cameron reason for hope. Six of the counts were thrown out because Cameron was denied his right to confront an accuser over the admissability of some evidence against him.

"If you read the 80-page opinion the battle is far from over," he says. "The court takes a lot of time and effort describing how difficult an issue it was, and it's certainly possible that another court could issue an even stronger opinion in Jim's favor."

Prior to jumping bail, Cameron was expected to be resentenced in U.S. District Court. Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Clark declined to comment on the latest developments in the case.


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