DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Closing arguments are expected Monday in the long-delayed trial of Nydia Tisdale, the self-proclaimed citizen journalist charged with felony obstruction of an officer following a 2014 Republican rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm.
Senior State Superior Court Judge Martha Christian could have continued the trial today (Dec. 2) but indicated she was aware of a special event taking place today that could be a distraction, referring to the Georgia vs. Auburn SEC Championship game in Atlanta.
Tisdale is also charged with misdemeanor obstruction and criminal trespassing. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
The state contends that Tisdale ignored the property owners’ repeated demands to stop filming the rally or leave, then struck and kicked former Dawson County Sheriff’s Captain Tony Wooten when he attempted to remove her.
On the witness stand Friday, Tisdale admitted she had been told on three separate occasions to stop filming but said, “In my mind, he didn’t have any authority to demand that of me.” Tisdale repeatedly said she had the permission of Burt’s Pumpkin Farm co-owner Kathy Burt to film the event.
However, Burt and her daughter, Kasey Sanders, greeted Tisdale when she arrived and both testified the defendant never asked permission. They said she indicated she was there filming for Gov. Nathan Deal, who also attended the rally. Burt said she felt like Tisdale misrepresented herself.
There were other apparent inconsistencies in Tisdale’s testimony. She said as she was being detained by Wooten, she heard Burt say she did not want to press charges. However, Burt denied saying that and an audio recording on Tisdale’s camera picked up no such statement by Burt.
Tisdale also testified that she never hit Wooten but Morris Petit, who testified for the state, said he witnessed the defendant strike the officer, “around the facial area, the neck. That was almost immediate.”
Defense attorney Bruce Harvey subpoenaed Gov. Nathan Deal, who occupied a front row seat near Tisdale at the rally, but Christian quashed the subpoena.
She also denied a motion by Harvey for a directed verdict.
Other leading state officials, including former Attorney General Sam Olens, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and State School Superintendent Richard Woods did testify this week. All said they had no objection to Tisdale filming the event.
Hudgens, one of the first state officials to speak at the event, testified he did not talk to anyone about getting rid of Tisdale or stopping her from filming.
However, Clint Bearden, an attorney who is on the short list to become a state superior court judge, testified on rebuttal that Hudgens was outraged by being filmed and wanted Tisdale to stop.
Bearden said he told Burt’s Pumpkin Farm co-owner Johnny Burt that some of the campaigns were concerned about being filmed, and Burt responded by saying, “Tell her to turn off the camera.”
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