We previously discussed the bizarre case of James Cameron, 50, the former top drug prosecutor in Maine who cut off his electronic bracelet and fled after a ruling that upheld his conviction on child pornography charges. He spent 17 days on the run but was nabbed in Albuquerque on Monday and was ordered held without bail.
Cameron was arrested Sunday morning by U.S. marshals as he left a bathroom at a video and book store. When arrested, police found camping gear, including canteens and a sleeping bag. He had changed the plates on his tan Audi.
On August 23, 2010, at the close of a six-day, jury-waived trial, the Court found James M. Cameron guilty of thirteen violations of federal criminal law against child pornography. Oral Ct. Verdict (Docket # 179). On September 4, 2010, Mr. Cameron moved separately for: (1) a new trial, (2) arrest of judgment as to Counts 12 and 13, and (3) reconsideration of his motion for acquittal. Defense Mot. for New Trial (Docket # 194) (Def.’s Mot for New Trial); Mot. for Arrest of J. as to Counts 12 & 13 on Lack of Jurisdiction Grounds (Docket # 195) (Def.’s Jurisdictional Mot.); Defense Mot. for Seeking Recon. of Disposition of Mot. for J. of Acquittal (Docket # 196) (Def.’s Mot. for Recon.). On September 15, 2010, the Government filed a consolidated response. Gov’t’s Opp’n to Def.’s Post-Trial Mots. (Docket # 200) (Gov’t’s Opp’n). On September 29, 2010, Mr. Cameron filed a consolidated reply. Consolidated Reply to the Gov’t’s Opp’n to Post-Trial Defense Mots. (Docket # 204) (Def.’s Reply).
B. The Government Investigation and Evidence of Images of Child Pornography
Before, during and now after trial, Mr. Cameron has vigorously asserted that the images of child pornography that were posted on the Yahoo! servers and which the Government traced to him were inadmissible. Mr. Cameron contends, first, that the images had been illegally seized, and second, that the Government failed to produce a proper authenticating witness.
On March 15, 2007, Yahoo!, an ISP, received customer complaints about the existence of images of child pornography associated with the screen name “lilhottyohh.” Yahoo! searched its servers for sites associated with that screen name and reported these images to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). In August 2007, after viewing the images, NCMEC referred the matter to the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit (MSPCCU), directing MSPCCU to images associated with the “lilhottyohh” screen name as well as to those associated with a second screen name, “lilhottee00000.” Later, NCMEC made a second referral concerning child pornography that Yahoo! had discovered in the photographs section of an account under the screen name “harddude0000.” Yahoo! records confirmed that these three screen names were traceable to an Internet Protocol (IP) address, which had been assigned to Mr. Cameron’s wife at a residence they shared in Hallowell, Maine.
On December 17, 2007, the Maine State Police executed a search warrant at Mr. Cameron’s residence and seized four computers. An analysis of the four computers revealed, among other things, that an eMachines computer at Mr. Cameron’s home had been used to access seventeen Yahoo! profiles, including variations of “lilhottee,” “harddude,” and other screen names. Based on this and other information, the Government served process on Yahoo!. 1 In compliance with the subpoena, Yahoo! produced images and discs associated with the identified screen names that contained child pornography. At trial, the Government sought to introduce these images of child pornography with evidence tying the Defendant to the screen names.
In his sentencing motion, Cameron argued for just a 60 month sentence:
Regarding the history and characteristics of the defendant, Mr. Cameron emphasizes his family background, his upbringing in Michigan, his education, and his employment as a prosecutor [*42] with the Somerset County District Attorney’s Office and the Maine Office of the Attorney General, including responsibility for oversight of all drug prosecutions. Id. at 87-89. Turning to the seriousness of the offense, Mr. Cameron admits the “depictions of child pornography are disturbing, inexcusable and unlawful.” Id. at 89. He attributes his descent into child pornography from six causes: 1) the progressive deterioration of death of his parents; 2) difficulties in caring for a third family member; 3) challenges within the Attorney General’s Office; 4) demands from a book that he was writing; 5) lifelong problems with obsessive-compulsive disorder; and, 6) a change of medication used to treat his obsessive-compulsive disorder. Id. Though he admits that “[a]ny involvement whatsoever with child pornography is intrinsically wrong”, he argues: 1) that he never had actual contact with minors; 2) that he never attempted to contact minors; 3) the ratio of child pornography to legitimate images “was very very low”; 4) that there is no evidence contraband was saved to create a collection; 5) that the child pornography was systematically deleted; 6) there is no evidence of wide-scale distribution; and, 7) that his child pornography activities occurred sporadically. Id. at 90-91. He believes that a 60 month sentence will promote respect for law and will allow for atonement and rehabilitation. Id. at 91.
(United States v. Cameron, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24878)
The district court however read his professional and educational history against him on sentencing: “Mr. Cameron’s position as a high law enforcement official is an aggravating factor. As the top drug prosecutor for the state of Maine, Mr. Cameron’s criminality casts an unwarranted shadow on the integrity of other public officials and encourages public cynicism. . . . Mr. Cameron is well educated and is unlikely to benefit from further vocational training.” He was sentenced to 192 months in prison, followed by ten years of supervised release. The sentence reflected the finding of the district court that “at least 300, but fewer than 600″ images of child pornography.
The appellate decision below did raise a legitimate issue regarding the confrontation clause. Cameron was right that the trial court had violated his rights regarding the admissibility of evidence. However, while reversing six counts of conviction, the court held the violation to be harmless on seven counts. The harmless error doctrine has often been criticized as downplaying or ignoring the impact of improperly admitted evidence on the overall jury decision. Moreover, with the harsh child pornography sentencing, a reduction in counts is unlikely to amount in a significantly reduced sentence. Whatever the sentence, however, it appeared too much for Cameron to contemplate — particularly as the former chief drug prosecutor in the state who is likely to face many former defendants in prison.
Cameron visited his ex-wife and son shortly before fleeing in his 1999 Audi A6 with license plate number 233PL. With the ruling, he would have had to return to jail and Cameron had 15 years remaining of the original 16 year sentence.
He will now face charges for escape in addition to the pornography charges. In the end, I expect he is not likely to view the 17 days as worth it if paid for with an additional six months or year confinement.
Here is the opinion: 11-1275P-01A