Judge Lunsford Long found two defendants not guilty on charges of assaulting an officer and resisting an officer, respectively. He found another defendant guilty on two counts of assaulting an officer and accepted a guilty plea from a fourth for violating the state’s anti-masking law. Three other defendants agreed to perform community service in exchange for having their charges dropped.
Jody Anderson, a twenty-two-year-old electrician from Raleigh, was one of eight activists arrested during a September 8 rally after white supremacists left and police skirmished with antiracists at McCorkle Place, which housed Silent Sam for more than a century until August 20, when activists toppled it, and the statue’s base until last Monday, when outgoing Chancellor Carol Folt had it removed.
Anderson was charged with assaulting an officer by kicking him in the back of the leg. The case ran into trouble when the cop testified that he didn’t feel anything when the alleged assault took place. The prosecutor argued that officers’ adrenaline made them less likely to feel pain.
“I would think in all these cases you would need some kind of evidence—a cut or a bruise,” Judge Long said. He found Anderson not guilty.
He came to a different conclusion on a pair of assault charges against Julia Pulawski, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying Spanish.
UNC police officer S. Bostelman said she witnessed Pulawski grabbing onto another officer who was attempting to make an arrest, and hitting and kicking him. She testified that she wasn’t certain whether Pulawski was hitting with open or closed hands, and she changed her testimony from kicking to kneeing.
Bostelman then said she attempted to “peel” Pulawski off but had to grab her around the torso to pull her loose. The officer testified that she picked Pulawski up off the ground, and the defendant elbowed and kicked her four or five times within a ten-second span before the two tumbled to the ground. Under cross-examination, Bostelman admitted the duration of the time when the alleged elbowing and kicking occurred was probably less than ten seconds.
Bostelman told the court that her body-camera died halfway through the protest, and she was not able to record the incident. She also testified that she did not write a use-of-force report until two or three days later.
Pulawski took the stand and gave a dramatically different account, denying that she assaulted either the first officer or Pulawski.
“I saw a protester get thrown to the ground and I ran toward him,” she testified. “I felt an arm close around my neck. I was thrown to the ground, and I felt dirt on my face.” (Joshua Mascharka, twenty-five, whom Pulawski said she ran to assist, was previously found guilty by Judge Long of resisting an officer. Mascharka is appealing.)
After four officers carried Pulawski into the nearby Graham Memorial Building by her arms and legs, she said she “was put face down on the marble floor. I felt a knee to my back, and I was told to not f-ing move. I also felt pressure on my head. I heard crying, and they told me, ‘Don’t f-ing worry about it. Shut the eff up.”
Supporters gasped when Judge Long found Pulawski guilty.
“I do think your conduct was reprehensible,” Long told Pulawski. “I don’t think you deserve a long term in prison. I think you deserve a short time in the Birmingham jail like Dr. King did.”
He sentenced her to twenty-four hours in the Orange County jail.
Scott Holmes, Pulawski’s lawyers, indicated she will appeal.
Prosecutors dismissed charges against two other defendants arrested at the September 8 rally as part of a deferred prosecution arrangement in which the two agreed to perform twenty-four hours of community service and pay $180 in court fines. Jayna Fishman, twenty-two, was charged with spitting on an officer, while Mary Rosen, twenty-three, was charged with resisting an officer.
Two of the September 8 defendants had their charges dismissed. Assistant District Attorney Billy Massengale dismissed charges of resisting an officer against Jaya Athavale, eighteen, and Christopher David Wells, thirty-one, citing insufficient evidence, noting that the officers they allegedly resisted could not be identified.
Four other defendants from the rally still face charges, including twenty-seven-year-old Brandon Alexander Webb of Richmond, Virginia, who is accused of setting off a smoke bomb and “shouting profanity” toward police.
Also standing trial on Friday was Kristin Emory, a twenty-six-year-old Durham resident who works as project manager for a biotech firm. Emory testified that she had been in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the August 2017 Unite the Right rally and she “was afraid something like that might happen in Chapel Hill” when she learned that neo-Confederates were coming in support of Silent Sam. Emory said she had received training as a first responder, and she and a friend, Danielle Schochet, came together to the rally wearing backpacks filled with medical supplies.
The arresting officer testified that his commanding officer ordered him and other members of Arrest Team 2 to arrest Schochet—who is transgender and uses they/them pronouns—based on a report that Schochet had pushed someone. The arresting officer testified that Emory grabbed Schochet’s shoulders and attempted to pull them back as they were lying on the ground.
Emory testified that she did not interfere in the arrest.
“I was trying to reassure them to let them know I was there,” Emory said.
After reviewing police body-camera video, Judge Long remarked, “It was a mighty small interference if it was one at all.”
Finding Emory not guilty, the judge said, “I think she’s been punished enough.”
Schochet’s charge of simple assault was dismissed by Massengale after the defendant and alleged victim, Colby Jaye Katz, reached a mediation agreement.
Lillian Price, twenty, was charged with injury to property after allegedly damaging a bamboo flagpole belonging to Barry Brown, a member of Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, a neo-Confederate hate group. Price’s charge was dismissed on Friday through a deferred prosecution agreement in which she agreed to perform twenty-four hours of community service and pay a $180 court fine.
Michael Mole, also twenty, was similarly charged for allegedly pushing Brown. Brown, in turn, punched Mole in the face. Brown is currently appealing a guilty verdict for simple assault. Mole’s charge was dismissed earlier this month through deferred prosecution after he completed twenty-five hours of community service.
John Quick, thirty-four, was charged with simple assault for allegedly pushing David Curtis, a member of the pro-Confederate militia group Carolina Defenders National Nomads. He also accepted a deferred prosecution deal with a promise to complete community service.
Tim Osborne, a graduate student, was charged with simple affray for allegedly grabbing a neo-Confederate activist involved in a fight and throwing him to the ground. The charge was dismissed by Massengale because the victim wasn’t named.
Of the remaining defendants from an August 25 rally at McCorkle Place, Thomas Bruefach, eighteen, is the only one who still has pending charges.
Only one defendant from August 20, the night Silent Sam was toppled, went to trial on Friday. Ian Broadhead, twenty-eight, of Watauga County, was arrested early in the evening as activists were moving from Peace and Justice Plaza to McCorkle Place and charged with violating the state’s anti-masking law.
UNC police Captain L.T. Twiddy testified that Broadhead never took off a bandanna that covered the lower part of his face.
Broadhead said he took the stand to refute Twiddy’s testimony.
“He gave me two warnings,” Broadhead said outside the courtroom. “I figured there was more important shit to do. I pulled it down, and he arrested me.”
Broadhead said after Judge Long signaled that he planned to find him guilty, he opted to plead guilty with a prayer for judgment. The plea carries no sentence but means that Broadhead cannot appeal.
Charges against five defendants related to the toppling of Silent Sam will be heard at a later date. The cases were also continued for two defendants who were arrested during an August 30 rally. Maya Little and Mark Porlides, who were arrested during a December 3 protest, will also be tried at a later date.
During the morning session, Judge Long excluded members of the media and supporters from the courtroom. At one point, antiracist activists confronted the bailiff assigned to guard the door and asked why a man wearing a Blue Lives Matter patch was allowed inside the anteroom to speak with the courtroom bailiff during the morning break. The man identified himself as Robert Murdaugh, a retired Carrboro police office. Antiracist activists said Murdaugh has maintained a continuous presence at the Silent Sam protests, and they felt unsafe with him standing next to the courtroom door considering that defendants were required to give their names to the bailiff to get inside.
Late in the morning, an INDY reporter passed a note through the bailiffs to Judge Long requesting a hearing on access to the court, asserting a constitutional presumption of openness for judicial proceedings. Long relented after the lunch break, and allowed reporters and supporters to observe the proceedings.