Three high-speed chases with the same trooper span a dozen years
Raced from Sharon to Randolph Center before hitting spike strips
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - Over the past dozen years, James Freeman of Brookfield has led police on at least four high-speed chases around the region and Vermont State Police say he did it again Monday afternoon when he took off on one of the same troopers who pursued him two previous times, stretching clear back to 2004.
Freeman, 35, was in court Tuesday afternoon in downtown White River Junction where he pleaded innocent to a felony count of attempting to elude law enforcement and to accompanying misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, grossly negligent operation of a vehicle and driving despite a license that had been suspended more than three previous times due to DUI convictions.
Freeman was returned to the Springfield jail for lack of $25,000 bail.
Vermont State Police Sargent Eric Hudson wrote in an affidavit filed with the court that the latest pursuit began around 4:20 p.m. on Monday as he was headed southbound on Interstate 89 in Sharon. Sgt. Hudson said he noticed a car barreling at him in his rearview mirror so he pulled over into the breakdown lane and let Freeman pass him at 83 mph before puling back into the travel lane and switching on his blue lights.
James Freeman, 35, of Brookfield is being held for lack of $25,000 bail
Moments later the 2008 Toyota Camry left the highway at Exit 2 in Sharon and then headed north on Route 14 with Sgt. Hudson activating his siren and heading after him. Hudson said speeds during the chase were initially 60 to 70 mph as it wound along Button Hill Road and then back to Route 14 where it “continued to cross the center line on curves and pass other vehicles at a high rate of speed, even in the path of oncoming traffic.”
“The pursuit led to the East Bethel Road, where speeds reached in excess of 90 mph, and into Randolph Center where the vehicle was spiked by Trooper Joseph Pregent,” Hudson recounted. “The pursuit ended at the intersection of Ridge Road and Route 66 when the vehicle lost control and went off the right side of the roadway.”
Freeman jumped out of the Camry and tried to run off on foot but three other troopers jumped from their cruisers and chased Freeman down and grabbed him.
Freeman’s passenger, Stephanie Blaise, the owner of the vehicle, remained in the car after it crashed and Sgt. Hudson said that while she was not hurt, Blaise told troopers that during the chase she'd repeatedly told Freeman to stop because she wanted to get out but to no avail.
Court records indicate that Freeman’s license to drive was suspended for life back in 2009.
In 2004 Freeman, who was 22 at the time, led police on a pre-dawn high-speed chase that hit speeds around a hundred miles per hour through Randolph and Bethel down Route 12. At one point in that pursuit, Trooper Eric Hudson wrote at the time, Freeman backed up and rammed Hudson’s cruiser, causing his police canine “Aiko” to strike the dashboard and sustain a laceration over his right eye. Aiko got the last laugh when Freeman bailed out of his car and ran into the woods only to be captured by him and Hudson a short time later.
At the time of that pursuit Freeman was on conditions of pre-trial release from an earlier pursuit that had taken place in neighboring Orange County. Sgt. Hudson said this week that he was also involved in another pursuit with Freeman a couple of years ago that went through Northfield.
In 2004 the attempting to elude charges were ultimately dismissed as part of plea deals that saw Freeman convicted of drunk driving and felony counts of unlawful mischief, sale of heroin, sale of cocaine and possession over a pound of marijuana, charges which the state used against Freeman this week when they filed a habitual offender petition along with his new charges, meaning that he could face “enhanced penalties” of up to life in prison if he were to be convicted of the new charges now pending against him.
NOTE: This story and the headline were updated on Wednesday January 25th after a conversation with Sgt. Hudson in which he noted that this was actually his third chase, not second, involving James Freeman and that his police canine at the time, "Aiko" had participated in Freeman's capture in 2004 shortly after his cruiser was rammed.
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