Justice William Anderson talks to members of the jury during a 2017 case. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.

A Superior Court justice on Friday declared a mistrial after a jurors in the sexual assault trial of a Howland man could not reach a verdict following more than five hours of deliberations over two days.

James J. Cameron, 58, was charged in 2019 with three counts of gross sexual assult, a Class A crime, for allegedly abusing two boys when they were between 7 and 10 in the late 1990s.

Cameron pleaded not guilty.

His trial began Monday. Jurors deliberated for about 3½ hours Thursday without reaching a verdict. After hearing a readback of some testimony Friday morning, they deliberated for about two hours before going to lunch. A short time after returning, they sent out a note saying they could not reach a unanimous decision.

Penobscot County District Attorney Marianne Lynch said her office would decide in the future whether to seek a retrial.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson allowed Cameron to remain free on bail as he has been for more than a year. Initially set in November 2019 at $100,000 cash, his bail was lowered to $40,000 in property in February 2021.

Anderson put off ruling on a defense motion to dismiss the charges.

Cameron denied abusing the men when they were boys but admitted that they spent time in the late 1990s at his home in Edinburg because they were schoolmates of his children, the prosecution has said.

He also was a helper in the Cub Scout troop to which the two brothers belonged.

Cameron is a lifetime registrant on the Maine Sex Offender Registry due to similar covictions in Massachusetts in 2004 and 2007.

Jurors were not told of Cameron’s previous convictions.

The victims were interviewed in 2001 about possible abuse by Cameron in the late 1990s, but denied that it had happened, according to closing arguments presented Thursday morning.

The victims testified Monday on the first day of the trial that they were sexually assaulted by Cameron. Cameron did not take the stand in his own defense.

The charges and trial stemmed from information learned when a detective with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office was investigating a separate complaint about Cameron’s alleged sexual abuse of a relative in 2019. He is charged with unlawful sexual contact in that case, which is pending.

Mark Rucci, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, said that jurors should believe the victims.
“They told you all the ways they tried to forget but some things you just don’t forget,” Rucci said in his closing statement.

To find Cameron guilty, the only thing that jurors had to decide was whether the victims were forced to engage in a sexual act with Cameron, the prosecutor told them.

Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor told the jury in his closing argument that the inconsistencies in the victims’ stories raised enough reasonable doubt for jurors to find Cameron not guilty.

“Their stories were always changing,” he said. “They said as children that nothing happened.”

If retried and convicted, Cameron faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.