While Brown hadn't intended to seduce Allan Cameron, the parole officer who would make sentencing recommendations, nothing about that evening had been innocent. It was against the rules for them to socialize. Brown knew that. But he didn't hesitate to accept Cameron's dinner invitation. It would be his chance to lobby for mercy.
Except for the scars on his face and a tendency to avoid eye contact, little about Brown suggests a hardened criminal. Desperate and corruptible, yes. But not scary or cruel. Cameron told the scrappy plumber he was "a nice kid," that he didn't think prison was the answer. After he paid for Brown's dinner, Cameron asked him, "Be honest with me. Do you want to go for a beer?" When Brown said yes, Cameron took him to the bar.
As the evening wore on, Brown says Cameron "kept going on and on about what a good-looking kid I am." Brown excused himself and went to the bathroom. He stared at himself in the mirror, his optimism shattered, thinking, "Man, this dude is trying to get some gay stuff going on."
A hard-living man of pure blue-collar stock, Brown wasn't the type. If he were facing only a few months or a year behind bars, he wouldn't have considered it. But Brown thought of his girlfriend, his little daughter, his elderly mother -- all of whom depended on him, all of whom he'd let down too many times before. He decided that, if a few minutes of degradation meant wiping out a 5- to 10-year sentence, why the hell not? No one would ever know, he promised his drunken reflection.
Brown explains what happened next on the condition that his real name not be published: "A few beers later, [Cameron] asked me, had I ever had another man perform oral sex on me? I said no, and he asked me, 'Would I be interested?' and I said, 'Will this help me?' and he said yes."
The two bought a case of beer and went back to Cameron's house, where Brown says he conceded to the parole officer's wish.
Cameron fulfilled his end of the bargain several weeks later, Brown says. Based on the parole officer's recommendations, the judge suspended a prison sentence and gave Brown three years' probation on an attempted burglary/grand theft rap.
But Cameron felt more payback was owed, says Brown. He claims the parole officer began calling him repeatedly and showing up at his job, his mother's house, and the trade school where he was studying automotive maintenance. At one point, Brown says, Cameron threatened, "If you don't stop avoiding me, I can just as easily undo what I did for you."
Between 1992 and 1998, Brown admits he had sex with Cameron five times. In return, he claims Cameron gave him money to feed his cocaine addiction, enabled him to submit false urine samples, and helped him obtain light sentences on subsequent charges. To Brown, who spent much of those years strung out on cocaine, their relationship was all business. But he suspected it meant more to Cameron -- especially by 1998, when he says Cameron began telling him he loved him.
In the spring of 1999, investigators from the Ohio Adult Parole Authority pulled Brown into a private room at the Lorain Correctional Institution. The discussion would help lead to Cameron's indictment on two counts of sexual battery in January of last year. Then, in November, the parole officer was indicted again, this time on 18 counts ranging from rape to attempted bribery.
A lengthy investigation by the parole authority and the Ohio State Highway Patrol yielded four other victims as well -- all but one were felons. They didn't know each other, says Lieutenant Monte Morgan, but their stories were strikingly similar. Three said they had sex with Cameron. All reported being propositioned in the same way, with Cameron implying that sexual submission would improve the status of their cases.
Cameron pleaded not guilty.
Yet on April 30, the day the trial was to begin, the case against him fell apart. In a strange conclusion to a strange case, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office dismissed all but two charges. Cameron confessed to one count of attempted bribery and one count of attempted tampering with evidence, both low-level felonies.
No judge or jury ever got to hear the stories of the criminals who say they became Cameron's victims.
Cameron's story also remains out of reach; he did not return a reporter's calls. To date, he has made only one public statement. "I erred in judgment in my attempts to help these people and allowed myself to get too close to them," he told Common Pleas Judge John Sutula two weeks ago.
But law enforcement and court records indicate he wreaked far greater damage than his relatively minor convictions suggest. There was just one reason prosecutors didn't try to prove it in court: Cameron's victims disappeared.
Allan Cameron lives in a rented house in a peaceful Lakewood neighborhood. On a warm spring day, the sound of lawn mowers and playing children drowns out the birds the streets are named after. He is six feet tall and jowly, with a mouth chiseled into a scowl. That, along with an authoritative Scottish brogue, mitigates the goofiness of his oversized ears, which protrude from the sides of his head like the inflated gills of a fish. If not for this, Cameron, at 57, would be undistinguished in his bland gray suits: the kind of man swallowed whole by not-so-large crowds.
He may be mum now, but 10 years ago, when he applied for a job with the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, he had quite a bit to say about himself. He wrote small on his application so he could fit his many qualifications into the meager space provided.
Cameron presented himself as an excellent prospect for parole work. He had 14 years of formal education in Scotland, and he was working toward an associate's degree in law enforcement. He had completed 32 courses on this subject and had 120 hours of Ohio Peace Officer Training.
His work experience was equally impressive. He had been a senior consultant for a New York firm, where he earned $42,000 a year doing criminal background checks and research for blue-chip corporations. He left in 1984 to start his own security consulting business, Allan Cameron Associates, in Columbus.
Because of "financial insecurity, burnout and a desire to return to law enforcement," Cameron became a security officer and aide to the director of the Franciscan HealthCare System of Central Ohio in 1988. Over the next three years, he kept his own business going part-time while securing other job titles that reeked of excitement -- internal affairs investigator and "strike-team commander" for a private security service. Later, he became the chief security officer for a mental health center, where his duties included monitoring sex offenders.
He was hired as a parole officer in May 1992, earning about $10 an hour. His personnel file shows no complaints or disciplinary actions until he resigned "not in good standing" in September 1999.
Outside of work, Cameron was a loner who applied the formality of work to his personal life. At least that's the impression of William Borts, now 27, who says he lived in Cameron's neighborhood when he was busted for trafficking marijuana in 1991. The parole officer acquired his case and conducted the presentence investigation. From that point on, Cameron made reforming the handsome drug dealer his personal mission.
"Every time he seen me, he put his foot in my ass to make sure I'm going the right way," says Borts, whose look is equal parts Eminem and 'N Sync. "I thought Cameron was like an older brother. He was trying to look out for me."
Borts says Cameron was a "Gomer Pyle kind of guy" whose idea of a good time was sitting on his porch drinking O'Doul's. Yet the parole officer reached out to Borts, arguably the baddest seed in the neighborhood, barbecuing with him and befriending his family. In return, Borts invited Cameron to his parties. His friends would have to stash their dope whenever the parole officer arrived, but the thrill of having the law represented at these soirées made the inconvenience worth it.
The two became chummy. The older man even nicknamed his young friend "Bad Ass." But he never gave Borts a break, rarely shared personal information, and never made romantic advances.
When Borts got busted a second time, this time for trafficking LSD, he went to prison for nearly four years. In 1999, he found out he was getting paroled, and he called Cameron from prison. Cameron said he would try to get his case.
Several months after Borts was released, he was called to the ninth floor of the Justice Center. A high-ranking parole official had a transcript of his call to Cameron, and he accused them of "engineering a plan" to get Cameron assigned to his case. Just what kind of relationship did the two have? the officer wanted to know.
"I'm not going to lie to you," Borts says he told the official. "Cameron did try to be my P.O. . . . I don't trust nobody else. I trusted Cameron. I could turn my back without feeling he was going to stab me."
When Borts left the Justice Center that day, he knew his friend was in trouble. He suspected the parole officer was being railroaded.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which encompasses the parole authority, initially grew suspicious of Cameron when a colleague discovered he had been contacting her parolees. Soon, the department discovered that several inmates had called Cameron's home from prison. And in 1999, one reported that Cameron propositioned him.
It's hard for sex-crime victims to talk to the authorities in general. But it was especially difficult for the parolees to talk about Cameron. These are not men given to expressing their vulnerabilities. Some were embarrassed to admit another man had sexually coerced them. They also felt no one would believe them, Lieutenant Morgan says. And even if they did, no one would care about acts committed against criminals.
At first, Brown says he lied about even knowing Cameron. He meant to keep the promise he made to himself back in 1992: No one would ever know.
He told the parole authority about his involvement with Cameron only after someone else came forward. And he did so only when investigators told him their case was so strong that it would never go to trial.
"I am not a homosexual, and I will never look at myself that way," he says. "I made [an investigator] promise to keep my name out of it as much as possible. The whole embarrassment thing. At the time, I started crying, talking to this guy."
In October 1999, the parole authority turned the case over to the highway patrol. Troopers found six parolees who had unsanctioned contact with Cameron, all of whom had been under his control at some point. Five men said they were propositioned. Three reported sexual relationships.
One recalled how Cameron picked him up from prison; how the parole officer stopped his car at a red light, rubbed his hand across the con's inner thigh, and informed him that he had "found a friend." According to the parolee's statement to the highway patrol, Cameron also offered to take him on a fishing trip to Florida, where, the parole officer noted, "We wouldn't do much fishing."
Cameron rarely threatened his victims, troopers say. He usually just implied that, if they had sex with him, he would keep them out of prison, says Trooper Thomas Halligan, who investigated the case. Cameron was direct and persistent. Sometimes, if they refused, Cameron relented. But not always.
"He's a snake in the grass," says Halligan. "If he thought he could strong-arm someone, he would."
In March of last year, a parolee filed a lawsuit against Cameron and the state. According to the suit and the victim's statements to the highway patrol, Cameron took him from a halfway house to his home on March 6, 1998, where he asked the parolee for sex. When the man refused, Cameron threatened to have him sent back to prison if he didn't comply. The following day, the man fled Ohio.
By June, he was caught and sent back to prison. In August, the parole authority held a hearing to determine whether to revoke his parole. Cameron succeeded in convincing the hearing officer to keep the man under his supervision. Then, according to the man's statement, Cameron took him straight to a motel, where he performed oral sex on the man.
For four months, the parole officer continued to force the man to engage in sex, police and court files indicate. During "boys' night out" -- that's what Cameron allegedly dubbed their excursions -- the parole officer wouldn't allow the victim to contact his girlfriend; he also acted jealous of her. The relationship continued until the victim left Ohio again in November 1998.
Michael Goldberg, the man's lawyer, voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit in October because he couldn't locate his client. Personal problems unrelated to the case kept the man from pursuing his suit, Goldberg says.
But he is convinced his client was truthful, and he has the polygraph test results to prove it. "I believe Mr. Cameron basically extorted sex out of my client. And I think a lot of his problems subsequent to his initial release from prison stem from his abuse by Mr. Cameron."
By late last year, authorities had gathered plenty of evidence against Cameron. But there remained serious problems with the case. Cameron's accusers were bad victims: Several were thieves. One had been convicted of aggravated burglary. Another was a domestic abuser and a forger, and at least one was a drug addict. They evoked fear, not empathy. And they were accusing a state employee, an upstanding citizen with no criminal record.
Still, the men's stories were credible, Morgan and Halligan say. The victims didn't know each other, nor were they housed together. Troopers had taped phone conversations between the parole officer and his charges. They had letters Cameron allegedly sent to one man under the pseudonym "Aunt Alice." Two victims passed polygraph tests. The same two identified a Fairview Park motel as the place where they had sex. On one occasion, Cameron had signed in. On the other, the victim signed in, but Cameron had written his driver's license number on the registration card.
After Brown was granted an early release in August, he says he cooperated with Assistant Prosecutor Ed Walsh. But once he received a subpoena to appear at Cameron's trial, he was fear-stricken. He was told the case would never get this far. He didn't want to testify in open court.
"The prosecutor called [Cameron] a fool and said he's a fool for doing this, but he wants to go to trial," Brown recalls. "Are you going to cooperate or what?" Brown agreed.
But he says he became overwhelmed by the stipulations of his parole -- all the AA meetings, the job, the bills -- and he ran. In December, he was caught and sent back to prison to finish a four-year term for robbery and receiving stolen property.
Brown was stunned when yet another subpoena arrived a few months later. He thought he would be transported to Cleveland for the trial on April 30, but he wasn't. Cameron pleaded guilty that day to one count of attempted bribery and one count of attempted tampering with evidence -- substituting clean urine for dirty urine. His accusers weren't there to see it.
In the end, none of the alleged victims wanted to testify. Two of the three named as victims of sex offenses fled before the trial.
"That took a great foundation of the case away from us," Prosecutor Walsh says. "We felt it would be best to resolve it this way."
If all five victims had been in the courtroom at the same time, Trooper Halligan is convinced that Cameron would have been convicted. But the defense kept getting continuances, and it became increasingly difficult to keep track of the victims -- some of whom continued to get in trouble or left town. Halligan, who has been a trooper for 15 years, said he did everything possible to keep the case together. He wanted to see Cameron in prison.
"We don't need scum like that in this business," he says.
On May 29, Cameron appeared before Judge Sutula. Each of the charges to which he pleaded carried a maximum of 18 months' incarceration. But Cameron was suffering from a severe heart condition, as well as lung problems, his attorney, John Gibbons, told the judge. His client had no prior record, and he had remained a productive citizen, living off a disability pension and working on an as-needed basis for a friend's trucking company.
Cameron spoke but a few sentences on his own behalf. He was sorry, he said; he got too close to his parolees. No one showed up on behalf of his alleged victims.
So Sutula ordered the former parole officer to spend just 90 days in a halfway house and the next five years on community-control sanctions, including five months of home detention with electronic monitoring. As a felon, he is barred from working in law enforcement.
When a reporter informed Brown of the resolution, his reaction hovered between anger and disbelief. "I'm more mad at the system than I am at him, because of the way this all worked out. Why did they put me through all this?"
Brown filed a lawsuit against Cameron and the parole authority last year. It was dismissed because he filed it in the wrong court. When he submitted it again with the Ohio Court of Claims, it was dismissed because he failed to file the correct paperwork. He says he will refile -- he's seeking more than $5 million in damages for extreme mental and physical cruelty -- this month.
By the end of summer, Cameron will be able to return to his neighborhood, fire up the grill, and keep an eye on wayward youths. Now that the sex charges against him have been dismissed, he won't be labeled a sex offender. Neither the Lakewood police nor the neighborhood schools will know about the accusations. Nor will the parents who take their children to the playground across from his Quail home.