Trial attorney: Ruling in case against former state prosecutor helpful for cops, lawyers in future

Posted Nov. 15, 2012, at 7:40 p.m.
James M. Cameron
James M. Cameron

The ruling issued Wednesday by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that vacated some of the convictions against a former state prosecutor for downloading child pornography will be helpful to police and lawyers in future cases, according to James Cameron’s trial attorney.

Cameron, 50, of Hallowell was sentenced to 16 years in prison in March 2011 after his conviction in August 2010 following a jury-waived trial on 13 counts of sending, receiving and possessing child pornography in 2006 and 2007. He has been free on $75,000 unsecured bail pending the outcome of his appeal since August 2011.

In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court Wednesday reversed six of the 13 counts and sent the case back to U.S. District Judge John Woodcock.

The U.S. attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case, declined Thursday to comment on the 1st Circuit’s decision or what might happen next in the case.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Woodcock had not set a date for Cameron to appear before him for a hearing on whether he would remain free on bail until a resentencing on the remaining counts is scheduled.

Portland attorney Michael Cunniff represented Cameron at his trial. The motions he filed in the case laid the foundation on which the appellate court based its decision.

“The court provided very essential guidance to law enforcement authorities, prosecutors and judges involved with the investigation, prosecution and disposition of controversial cases in which Constitutional rights may be overshadowed by society’s disdain for arguably heinous crimes,” the attorney said Thursday in an email. “In such cases, it is the Constitution that must be protected, which in turn protects society and its constituents from deprivations of civil rights. Now, law enforcement authorities, prosecutors and judges have guidelines that will ensure that prosecutions will be efficient, effective and, most importantly, fair.”

In pretrial and post-trial motions, Cunniff argued unsuccessfully before Woodcock that some of the documents provided by Yahoo! that linked Cameron’s IP address to sites from which he was accused of downloading child pornography were inadmissible. The attorney said that because federal prosecutors never called to testify the person who did that analysis, Cameron’s Sixth Amendment right to confront a witness was violated.

The appellate court reversed Woodcock and found merit in Cunniff’s original argument on the six counts it threw out.

But the 1st Circuit found that Woodcock had additional evidence from which he could conclude Cameron was guilty on the other seven counts and that the effect of the admission of the Yahoo! evidence was harmless.

Cunniff, who no longer represents Cameron, is working in Kosovo with a U.S. Agency for International Development Effective Rule of Law Program that concentrates on reforms of the judicial and prosecutorial institutions.

Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, which stemmed from its liberation from Serbia after civil strife in 1999.

Peter Charles Horstmann of Boston was appointed last year by the 1st Circuit to handle Cameron’s appeal, which he based on the motions Cunniff filed.

“We obviously are happy with the court’s decision to vacate Mr. Cameron’s convictions on the counts it did,” Horstmann said in a telephone interview Thursday. “We are disappointed they did not go all the way and reverse all of them.”

Federal prosecutors and the defense attorney have two weeks to decide whether they want to seek a review of the three-judge panel’s decision before all of the appellate judges in the 1st Circuit. Either side also could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the panel’s decision.

Judge Juan R. Torruella of Puerto Rico, Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson of Rhode Island and Jeffrey R. Howard of New Hampshire were the panel members. Torruella, who was appointed in 1974 by President Gerald R. Ford, wrote the majority opinion. Thompson was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama.

Howard, who was appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush, dissented from his colleagues and sided with Woodcock.

To read the decision, visit www.ca1.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/getopn.pl?OPINION=11-1275P.01A.

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