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BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s former top drug prosecutor, who was convicted of downloading child pornography and had been the subject of a nationwide manhunt after jumping bail, was captured Sunday about 11:15 a.m. local time in Albuquerque, N.M., according to U.S. Marshal Noel March.
James Cameron, 50, of Rome was arrested after surrendering without incident exiting the restroom of a Hastings Entertainment, located at 6064 Coors Blvd. N.W., according to a press release issued Sunday by the U.S. Marshals Service. The store sells books, DVDs, video games and electronics, according to its website.
“U.S. Marshals in Maine developed information that Cameron was in New Mexico and contacted marshals there,” the press release said. “Deputies in New Mexico conducted surveillance and shortly after apprehended Cameron.”
When he was arrested, Cameron still was driving the tan 1999 Audi he was last seen driving in Maine, March said in a telephone interview. Information about how much cash Cameron had in his possession when he was arrested or where the money used to finance his trip west came from was not available Sunday afternoon.
Under the conditions of his release, Cameron had surrendered his passport. He appeared to have a limited income from a watch importing business he shared with his brother and ex-wife. U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk determined in March 2010 that Cameron’s income was limited enough to qualify him for a court-appointed attorney.
Cameron was transported Sunday to Sandoval County Detention Center in Rio Rancho, N.M., the press release said. After appearing in federal court in New Mexico — which could be as early as Monday — Cameron will be returned to Maine.
March said he did not know exactly when that would be but he expected Cameron to be in Maine well before the end of the year.
“We are pleased with the apprehension of Mr. Cameron by the U.S. Marshals Service,” Assistant U.S. Attorney for Maine Donald E. Clark said in a telephone interview Sunday evening.
Clark declined to discuss the case further and would not say what if any new charges Cameron might be facing other than the violation of condition of release charge on which he was arrested.
Cameron’s whereabouts had been the subject of speculation after he 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.
A warrant was issued for his arrest on violation of conditions of release the same day, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Before disappearing, Cameron visited his ex-wife and son in Hallowell. On Nov. 15, she told Bryce Turgeon, the probation officer who supervised Cameron, that her ex-husband was “not doing well” and had told their son he would be returning to prison, the declaration filed with the motion to revoke Cameron’s bail said.
The declaration, motion and warrant were sealed until shortly after noon Nov. 19, according to information on the federal court’s electronic case filing system.
March said last month that Cameron’s disappearance was not made public until four days after it took place so law enforcement could follow up on leads on his possible whereabouts.
The declaration did not say when Cameron left his home in Maine, but it said the location-monitoring device indicated he had arrived home at 8:05 p.m. on Nov. 14. At 12:46 a.m. Nov. 15, the device indicated that Cameron left the residence without permission from his probation officer, according to the declaration. About 1:30 a.m., the device attempted to connect with Cameron’s ankle bracelet to verify he was home but was unable to do so.
U.S. Probation Officer Mitchell Oswald tried to reach Cameron between 7 and 8 a.m. Nov. 15 on his cellphone and landline but got no answer. About 10:30 a.m. that day, Turgeon went to Cameron’s home, according to the court documents.
“Defendant and his vehicle were both gone,” said the motion seeking the warrant. “His cellphone was in the house. The laptop computer that [Turgeon] monitored as a condition of release was also gone.”
Cameron had not used the laptop since 8:33 p.m. Nov. 14, the motion said.
Information about whether Cameron had his laptop with him when he was arrested was not available Sunday afternoon.
Oswald said in his declaration that the probation office had no previous problems with Cameron’s compliance with his location monitoring. He showed up for all his court appearances and reported as directed to supervising probation officers, according to court documents.
On March 10, 2011, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Cameron to 16 years in federal prison after finding him guilty the previous August following a jury-waived trial. Cameron had been held without bail since being convicted.
Woodcock denied several motions asking that Cameron be released on bail pending the outcome of his appeal. On Aug. 9, 2011, the appellate court overruled Woodcock and ordered Cameron released from the federal prison in Littleton, Colo.
His $75,000 unsecured bail, set at his arraignment in February 2009 over the objection of the U.S. attorney’s office, remained in place. Cameron was ordered to surrender his passport and to wear the electronic monitoring bracelet while awaiting the appellate court’s decision.
Unsecured bail means that a defendant does not have to post cash or property at the time bail is imposed. A defendant would only have to post the money or surety if bail were revoked by a judge.
It was unclear Sunday whether Cameron would be ordered to come up with $75,000 if apprehended and found to have violated his bail conditions. He has qualified for a court-appointed attorney since March 2010 due to his limited income. The camp property where he was living is owned by Cameron’s ex-wife but Cameron could live there for the rest of his life, according to court documents.
It could not be determined Sunday if the property could be seized because Cameron jumped bail.
In addition to the seven counts upheld by appellate court, Cameron faces the new charge of violating a condition of release. Any sentence he might face on that charge most likely would be served after he completed the 16 years on the underlying counts.
The appellate court dismissed the lesser charges of transportation of child pornography but let stand the more serious charges of receipt of child pornography. The dismissed charges were related to Cameron’s placing child pornography in a Yahoo! folder, according to court documents. The receipt of pornograpy charges stemmed from Cameron’s exchange of photos and videos and discussions about them in chat rooms, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Federal prosecutors claimed Cameron had downloaded more than 600 images, while defense attorney Michael Cunniff said at Cameron’s sentencing that his client had downloaded only about 100 images.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that Cameron’s case be sent back to Maine and that he be resentenced. It was unclear Sunday whether Cameron’s sentence would be reduced or remain the same under the federal sentencing guidelines.
Cameron’s original guideline range was between about 22 and 27 years, according to court documents. Woodcock went below the guideline range in imposing a 16-year sentence last year.
Peter Charles Horstmann of Boston, who handled Cameron’s appeal, declined to comment Sunday on his client’s capture when reached by email. Attempts to reach Cameron’s former attorneys were unsuccessful Sunday.
Since Cameron fled, the U.S. Marshals in Maine and around the country have been working diligently to apprehend Cameron, March said Sunday.
“This is an example of what the U.S. Marshals Service does best, locating and apprehending fugitives,” he said in the press release.