DOVER N.H. - Prosecutors and defense lawyers left hope alive for a possible deal in the Conor Makem bathroom camera case on Tuesday after the judge announced at a dispositional hearing that a status conference would be held off till May 22, leaving more time for both sides to hammer out a plea agreement.
Prosecutor Amy Feliciano said the decision gives more time to the Strafford County Attorneys Office and lawyers from Shaheen & Gordon, the law firm representing Makem, to reach a deal to avoid a trial.
Any trial would possibly involve some of the victims in the case having to testify.
Both Feliciano and Makem’s defense counsel, Timothy Harrington, had no comment regarding specifics of the case or what might transpire in the five weeks leading up to the status conference next month.
If prosecutors and the defense team fail to reach an agreement, Makem, a former part-time reporter and renowned singer, would have the option of asking for either a bench trial, which is where a judge would decide his guilt or innocence; or a jury trial, which would likely end up a media circus.
Makem, neatly dressed in tie and sportcoat, was at the Strafford County Superior Court today, but did not attend the hearing inside Courtroom 2.
Makem, who formerly worked as a reporter for the Rochester Times and Foster’s Daily Democrat, was indicted earlier this year on charges of felony falsifying of physical evidence and 19 misdemeanors of invasion of privacy in a bathroom camera scandal that came to light last fall.
Makem is accused of setting up a remote camera in the women’s bathroom near the Foster’s Daily Democrat Rochester bureau and Rochester Times officers on the second floor of the Merchants Plaza office building near Old Dover Road.
Some 19 women are reported to have been viewed in various stages of undress inside the bathroom. Makem is also charged with falsifying physical evidence for allegedly discarding the camera.
The initial police investigation began on Oct. 7 when the woman who first discovered the camera wondered what a blinking red light was doing in the upstairs Merchants Plaza bathroom and asked Makem to take a look. She said they agreed it should be turned over to police and he said he'd take care of it. Later in the day, according to a police affidavit, the woman said she got a phone message from Makem saying he had given it to police and they had said they would be in touch with them if they needed anything.
A few hours later she called police only to find out they had never been contacted by Makem, nor had the camera been turned in.
Police on Oct. 10 executed a search warrant at the Foster’s Rochester Bureau at Merchants Plaza and seized computers and other electronic devices used by Makem, including some owned by Foster's. They made the initial arrest on falsifying physical evidence and several invasion of privacy counts on Oct. 17, then followed that up a week later with more Invasion of Privacy charges alleging more victims. Makem was terminated by Foster’s after his initial arrest.
Rochester Police also had the FBI investigate an IMac computer owned by the Rochester Times that Makem had access to on which police say they found several dozen images of child pornography. Makem, however, was not charged regarding the child porn as Rochester Police said too many people had had access to the computer over too many years to build a viable case.
Makem, 45, had resided in Dover, N.H., prior to his arrest but moved to Amesbury, Mass., soon after the initial charges were made.
The indictment was handed down by a Strafford County grand jury in January.
An accomplished musician in a band that plays traditional Irish music, Makem had to miss a whirlwind Music Tour of Ireland hosted by his Makem and Spain Brothers band late last year after surrendering both his American and Irish passports as part of his bail conditions.
Makem, who was born in County Louth, Ireland, has dual citizenship.
The Makem and Spain Brothers band tours nationwide. Prior to his arrest, the band had recently played venues in New York, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
A concert scheduled last fall at the Rochester Opera House was canceled.
The band is currently touring without Conor Makem, a person familiar with the band said last month.
A falsification of evidence conviction can bring up to seven years in prison, while invasion of privacy, a Class A misdemeanor, can draw a year each in the county jail for each count.
Foster’s and the Rochester Times, meanwhile, have moved their offices from Merchants Plaza downtown to the second floor of the Chamber of Commerce building.