BANGOR, Maine — The attorney who represented James Cameron from the time he became the target of a federal investigation in late 2007 until he decided to go to trial in March 2010 said Wednesday he shared the frustration felt by many following the case.
“How could he just … disappear?” Peter Rodway of Portland asked.
Cameron, 50, of Rome cut off his ankle bracelet monitor and jumped bail in the early morning hours of Nov. 15, less than 12 hours after a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Boston upheld seven of his 13 convictions for possessing and downloading child pornography.
He was required to surrender his passport as a condition of his bail. Cameron also was found indigent in March 2010 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk, which qualified him for a court-appointed attorney, according to court documents.
He was free on post-conviction bail when he fled. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Nov. 14 meant he would be returned to federal prison.
“He has not been found,” Noel March, the U.S. marshal for Maine, said Wednesday.
March declined to speculate on whether Cameron had fled the state or managed to leave the country without his passport.
“I am unable to share further information,” March said. “The search for him will continue to be our top priority.”
It could not be determined from court documents how much money Cameron could access. Information in a motion that challenged his qualification for a court-appointed attorney showed that Cameron had transferred a majority of his assets to his wife when the couple divorced in February 2010.
His ex-wife retained ownership of a Hallowell home and a camp in Rome, assessed for tax purposes at $174,600 and $141,000, respectively, according to court documents. Cameron was allowed to live at the camp for the rest of his life but required to pay the property taxes and utilities.
Cameron also listed his income at $25,000 a year for purposes of assessing child support. His income reportedly came from an online business in which he sold German specialty watches over the Internet, according to court documents.
He also transferred 35 percent of that business to his ex-wife in the divorce.
In March 2010, the month after the Camerons divorced, Kravchuk granted Rodway’s motion to withdraw as James Cameron’s attorney. That motion is sealed and Rodway declined Wednesday to discuss his reasons for quitting as Cameron’s retained counsel.
A proposed plea agreement filed shortly before Cameron was sentenced revealed that Rodway had negotiated a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office. It called for Cameron to be sentenced to eight years in prison in exchange for his guilty plea but it was not binding on the judge.
Michael Cunniff of Portland was appointed to represent Cameron, whose jury-waived trial was held in Portland in August 2010. 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.
Cunniff and Horstmann have declined to comment on Cameron’s disappearance.
The appeals court ordered that Cameron be resentenced on the remaining seven counts. U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, who sentenced Cameron to 16 years in federal prison, had not scheduled the resentencing when the defendant disappeared.
The U.S. attorney’s office still is considering whether to seek a review by the full court of the panel’s decision to throw out six of the 13 counts, according to information filed with the appellate court in Boston.
Neither Woodcock nor the U.S. Probation and Pre-trial Services officials who supervised Cameron expressed concern that he might flee.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Cameron is likely to flee if he is released and the history of this case strongly suggests otherwise, but Mr. Cameron faces an enormous amount of prison time,” Woodcock wrote in his 11-page order denying Cameron’s request to be released pending sentencing. “Having now been found guilty of the crimes alleged, there is a greater likelihood of serving this time than during his pretrial release, and his flight potential is elevated.”
Rodway said Wednesday that he was surprised that Cameron is now a fugitive. The attorney said that he is concerned for his former client’s safety but did not consider him to be suicidal.
“In a situation like this, you have to be concerned about that,” Rodway said. “Knowing him the way I know him and for as many years as I’ve known him, he’s so strong mentally that I don’t think he’d do that.”
Cameron was last seen Nov. 15 in Hallowell driving a tan 1999 Audi A6, with Maine license plate 2333PL, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a press release Nov. 19, when the fact that Cameron was considered a fugitive was made public.
Anyone with information on Cameron’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Marshals Service office in Portland at 780-3355 or the service’s national headquarters at 1-877-WANTED2.