A UNC-Chapel Hill student arrested during a chaotic September 8 protest at McCorkle Place two weeks after the toppling of Silent Sam has accused a UNC police officer of lying during her January trial. 

Sergeant Svetlana Bostelman’s “false testimony” was “the only evidence used to convict” Julia Pulawski on two counts of assaulting an officer, according to a motion filed on March 8 in Orange County by her attorney, Scott Holmes, that seeks to dismiss the charges against her. 

During the trial, Bostelman testified that she ran out of Graham Memorial Building during the protest in response to a radio call for assistance and saw Pulawski hitting her colleague, Sergeant Burnett, while Burnett was arresting another protester. Burnett testified that he didn’t feel Pulawski assaulting him.

Bostelman, a nine-year veteran of the campus police department, testified that she pulled Pulawski off Burnett by her torso and “lifted her up, and at that point, she started swinging and swinging her legs, and we went down to the sidewalk.” Pulawski, Bostelman continued, kicked her four or five times while she held her in the air. Bostelman admitted during cross-examination that she did not write a report about the incident, and she said her body camera died before the arrest. 

Pulawski told a different story. She said she saw her friend and fellow anti-racism protester Joshua Mascharka get thrown on the ground by a police officer. 

“I ran toward them, and then I felt—all of a sudden—felt an arm constrict around my neck, and I was dragged backward and thrown to the ground,” Pulawski testified. “I just remember feeling, like, having dirt on my hair and face. From the moment I was grabbed in a chokehold, I could not move and didn’t have any control over my body, and I just felt other people on top of me, and then I was just all of the sudden being lifted into the air, carried by all my limbs into Graham Memorial.”

Pulawski testified that she didn’t know who had their hands on her, but she denied kicking any officers or resisting in any way.

Judge Lunsford Long credited Bostelman’s testimony in convicting Pulawski, and called her conduct “reprehensible.” Pulawski is appealing the verdict, but Holmes is now arguing that new evidence should lead to the charges being dismissed outright and Bostelman being sanctioned for lying under oath. 

“Video evidence and eyewitness testimony demonstrate that Sgt. Bostelman’s prior testimony is false,” Holmes wrote in the motion filed on Friday. 

Video footage, according to the motion, shows that a white male officer, not Bostelman, took Pulawski to the ground. It also contradicts Bostelman’s account that she lifted Pulawski in the air and that Pulawski was swinging her arms and legs. 

Bostelman’s testimony that she had an “unobstructed view” of Pulawski assaulting Burnett “as soon as we went out the door” is contradicted by video of the protest published by The News & Observer. The video shows Bostelman in front of Graham Memorial for at least twenty-nine seconds before police begin rushing the protesters. When that happened, the protesters fell back. 

With dozens of protesters and officers rushing in the same direction, it’s implausible that Bostelman would have had an unobstructed view of Pulawski. And when Bostelman reappears in the video, there are at least two people between her and Pulawski. 

A separate video shared on Twitter by Daily Tar Heel reporter Charlie McGee shows Burnett tackling another protester seven seconds before Bostelman appears in the frame grabbing Pulawski around the waist. At no time does the video show Pulawski or any other protesters attempting to interfere in the arrest.

The motion to dismiss includes an affidavit by Phil Hausman, a lawyer and graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill who has attended protests in connection with Silent Sam.

In his affidavit, Hausman said he had been getting ready to leave the September 8 protest when a group of police entered the crowd and arrested a protester and dragged him into Graham Memorial Hall. Hausman wrote that “police burst out of the front door” of Graham Memorial, and he retreated with other protesters so they could all leave safely together.

He said he saw police “putting knees on people, piling onto people” as they made arrests. The protesters, he said, “were complying” with police instructions. 

“We were watching to make sure the people being arrested were okay and not hurt by the police,” he wrote. At that point, Hausman continued, he saw Pulawski. He said he was standing “right in front of Julia when she was arrested.”

“When the police grabbed Julia, she was kneeling next to Joshua [Mascharka],” Hausman wrote. “She was not touching a police officer. She did not punch or kick any police officer. She was just kneeling there looking at Josh. When they were arresting her, she was not kicking or throwing punches. They picked her up and took her down, and dragged her away.”

Randy Young, a spokesman for the UNC Department of Public Safety, declined to comment for this story.

Jordan Green is a senior writer for Triad City Beat who has been covering the Silent Sam protests and their aftermath. Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.