BRATTLEBORO -- Layers of legal trouble continue to pile up for Kai Freeman.
Having already been imprisoned without bail on allegations that he traded marijuana for sex with a juvenile under age 16, prosecutors on Friday filed a new, more-serious charge against the 24-year-old Brattleboro man.
The aggravated sexual assault charge carries a maximum life sentence. It is based on the same set of allegations -- and the same victim -- that led to nine previous counts that were filed against Freeman Oct. 21.
The new development delayed a hearing Friday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division so that Freeman's defense attorney could have time to respond to the additional charge.
"This is now a potential life-term case," Judge David Suntag said.
Brattleboro police filed charges against Freeman after the alleged victim told investigators that she "felt pressured" to perform a sex act with him in exchange for marijuana.
There were three such incidents in September and October, court documents say. On one occasion, Freeman also attempted to touch the victim sexually even through she repeatedly told him not to, police said.
Freeman pleaded not guilty and was held without bail after his Oct. 22 arraignment, with Suntag saying he had "significant concerns" about public safety.
Freeman returned to the Brattleboro courtroom Friday for a "weight of the evidence" hearing to determine whether bail should be set so that he might be released from prison pending disposition of his case.
But Windham County Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein filed the new aggravated sexual assault count -- the 10th felony charge lodged against Freeman in this case -- before the hearing.
Freeman immediately was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to that charge, which alleges "repeated, nonconsensual sexual acts" against the same victim.
"There is probable cause for (the new) charge based on the original affidavit, so it was filed by the state," Gartenstein said.
Defense attorney Evan Chadwick, who was assigned to Freeman's case just a few days ago, now has more time to prepare for a weight of the evidence hearing based on hold-without-bail standards in the new charge.
In the end, though, any bail discussion Friday would have been largely academic.
That's because Freeman already had been indicted in Chesterfield, N.H., on allegations that he sexually assaulted a juvenile there last year. Freeman's arrest last month in Vermont constituted a violation of his conditions of release in New Hampshire, so that state has filed an arrest warrant here.
"Regardless of what we do today, Mr. Freeman was not going to be released," Suntag noted. "There's a detainer on him from out of state."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.