Tisdale Guilty of Misdemeanor Obstruction, Not Guilty of Felony Obstruction, Trespassing

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Nydia Tisdale (left) confers with attorney Catherine Bernard.

DAWSONVILLE Ga. – A Dawsonville jury found Nydia Tisdale guilty of misdemeanor obstruction of an officer, but acquitted her of felony obstruction and trespassing Monday evening.

The charges stemmed from a political rally attended by many of Georgia’s top state Republican leaders, including Governor Nathan Deal and now Senator David Perdue. The state charged that Tisdale was told on three separate occasions to stop filming the event or leave, and when former Dawson County Sheriff’s Captain Tony Wooten attempted to remove her, she elbowed him in the face and kicked him.

However, defense attorneys Bruce Harvey and Catherine Bernard argued that Tisdale had permission of the owners to the film the event, and those who ordered her to leave, including event organizer Clint Bearden, did not have the authority to do so.

The jury returned the verdict around 6 p.m. Monday. Sentencing has been set for Dec. 18 in Dawson County Superior Court.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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Former AG testimony could be pivotal in Nydia Tisdale’s trial in Superior Court

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Tisdale struggles to escape Dawson County Sheriff’s Capt. Tony Wooten. (Photo by Brian K. Pritchard).

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Governor Nathan Deal and former Attorney General Sam Olens, two of Georgia’s most prominent political figures, are expected to testify at Nydia Tisdale’s trial in Dawson County Superior Court this week.

Tisdale is charged with felony obstruction of an officer, misdemeanor obstruction and criminal trespass stemming from her conduct at a Republican political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in August 2014. Deal, Olens, Senator David Perdue, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and School Superintendent Richard Woods were featured speakers. All have been subpoenaed.

While the event was advertised as “open to the public,” it took place on private property owned by Johnny and Kathy Burt. Johnny Burt testified Wednesday that he did not authorize the ads, and he wanted Tisdale to stop filming or leave. When she refused, he told then Dawson County Sheriff’s Captain Tony Wooten to “get her out of here.”

Witnesses said when Wooten attempted to lead Tisdale away from the crowd, she began screaming and flailing her arms and hit Wooten in the face and was subsequently placed under arrest.

The audio and pictures of the struggle were captured by Brian K. Pritchard of Fetch Your News, who was seated directly behind Tisdale. Pritchard is also expected to testify, possibly as early as today (Nov. 30).

At the time of the arrest, Olens was the top law enforcement official in Georgia. Public comments he made after Tisdale’s arrest could be pivotal in the case. Olens questioned the political wisdom of having her removed, saying: “What are we saying here that shouldn’t be on film? What message are we sending?”

But he added, “It is private property. The property owner has the right to not have the person there.”

The state could wrap up its case today. The defense will then begin calling its witnesses.

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Georgia General Assembly Back in Session

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ATLANTA — The Georgia General Assembly convened today.

Legislators say there is a long list of issues to consider, including how to proceed following President-elect Donald Trump’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act, regional transportation planning, expansion of the medical marijuana bill and a renewed effort by Gov. Deal to pass an altered version of the Opportunity School District (OSD) that was soundly defeated by Georgia voters last year.

It is unclear what Republicans plan to dismantle with regard to Obamacare since Georgia did not expand Medicaid or create an exchange.

Republicans have placed crafting a regional transportation plan at the top of their agenda. But there will also be a strong push for an initiative to bolster job training programs in high schools as well as an effort to get the Georgia

Lottery to reduce the prize money it offers to winners in order to direct extra funding to the HOPE scholarship program.

As they have in the past, Democrats are likely to push for gun safety, voting rights an expansion of the medical marijuana bill passed in 2015, and added protection for the environment.

Deal, who is in his final year in office, appears determined to ignore the will of the voters and pass some form of his unpopular OSD.

The governor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week he is working with lawmakers on a plan that would give the state more power to let students transfer from the 153 schools on the state’s failing list.

Conservatives may push for a religious liberty bill for the fourth year in a row. House Bill 757 passed both the House and Senate last session before Deal sided with the LGBT and Chamber of Commerce lobbies and vetoed it in April.
The bill protected pastors from having to perform a same-sex wedding ceremonies and allowed businesses to refuse service to couples if they cited a sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions regarding marriage.

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Schools Close Early Today as Winter Storm Approaches

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ATLANTA — The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a storm warning just after midnight as schools, road crews and public safety officials in Dawson, White and Lumpkin counties prepared for the first winter storm of 2017.
Schools in White and Lumpkin counties announced they will close at noon today and Dawson County schools will close two hours earlier. Also, some schools have altered their athletic contests scheduled for today.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal plans to declare a state of emergency for 79 counties – including Dawson, Lumpkin and White.

The NWS said that some areas could get up to four inches of snow. Lumpkin County Emergency Services Director David Wimpy said one official told him the higher elevations of Lumpkin could get up to eight inches.

The winter weather is expected to begin early Friday evening as rann, snow or a mixture of both, becoming all snow overnight tonight. Officials say snow should end Saturday morning. Temperatures Friday evening will be in the low to mid 30s, making roads slick and travel hazardous.

White County is expecting snowfall of between four and five inches. White County Public Safety Director David Murphy advises the county Emergency Operation Center will activate at 7 PM Friday and will remain on partial activation until the weather threat has ended.

All fire stations will be manned beginning Friday evening and until such time the response phase of this event is completed. According to Murphy, all Public

Works crews are prepared and ready to respond and pre-treat if necessary, they will begin shift operations Friday as well.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will begin pre-treatments for our area and region at 7AM, Friday morning. First focus will be on interstate highways, and main state routes such as US Hwy 129. The DOT will work 12 hours shifts beginning Friday morning for 24 hours operations.

Fetchyournews.com will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.

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Despite Drought, Few Brush Fires Reported in Dawson County

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal banned the ignition of fireworks in counties the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Division have declared to be in a drought area.

Those counties in north Georgia include Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Habersham, Lumpkin, Pickens, Rabun, and Union.
Fetch Your News reached out today to Dawson County Fire Services to see if the fire department had encountered many brush fires in the last week.

Assistant Fire Chief Danny Speaks was happy to report that the department has responded to very few calls, considering the extreme drought conditions that exist.

“We’ve really not had a lot of problems at all,” he said. “Our citizens seem to be paying attention and are mindful of the drought conditions. The biggest problem is all this smoke from the forest fires in Fannin and Rabun counties.”

Speaks said Dawson County Emergency Services Director Lanier Swafford has done a good job of educating the public about a program called Firewise Communities The program is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters that shows brush, grass and forest fires don’t have to be disasters.

The program encourages local solutions for safety by involving homeowners in taking individual responsibility for preparing their homes from the risk of wildfire.

Speaks also said he was happy to learn of the governor’s ban on fireworks.

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Tisdale’s Defense Lawyer Withdraws Motions in Obstruction of Officer, Trespass Case

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The State of Georgia v. Nydia Tisdale motions hearing ended Wednesday with defense attorney Bruce Harvey withdrawing motions to disqualify the Dawson County District Attorney from the case and to suppress video taped evidence.

The defense now has 30 days to file a brief with Superior Court Judge Bonnie C. Oliver. Assistant District Attorney Lee Greer must file a brief no later than 30 days later.

Tisdale, who describes herself as a citizen journalist, was arrested Aug. 23, 2014 at a political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawson County after refusing repeated requests by owner Johnny and Kathy Burt to stop filming the event. She is charged with felony obstruction of an officer and misdemeanor obstruction and criminal trespass.

The event included Congressman David Perdue, Gov. Nathan Deal, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and others. Harvey indicated Wednesday that he may call all of some of them to testify when the trial begins.

On Tuesday, Tisdale testified she had permission from Kathy Burt to film the event. But Burt said Tisdale misled her by stating that she was filming for the governor. When she learned that was not the case she wanted Tisdale to stop filming. Burt said Tisdale was welcome to stay but had to stop filming.

Also on Tuesday, event organizer Clint Bearden testified Tuesday that he and the late Mack Burgess, a former top state Republican Party official, asked Tisdale to stop filming and she refused. That’s when they asked Dawson County Deputy Sheriff Tony Wooten to remove her.

Tisdale testified that she did not know Wooten was a sheriff’s deputy when he approached her and asked her to leave.

But as the hearing continued Wednesday Wooten said he approached Tisdale from the front wearing an official black Sheriff’s Office polo shirt with the words Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and a badge embroidered on the front, khaki cargo pants and a handgun and holster with a badge attached to it.

“I’m with the sheriff’s office and I’m going to have to make you leave if you don’t stop filming,” he said. When she refused again, Wooten said, “I grabbed her by the arm and she got up and started to jerk away and try to get away from me. Wooten said as he led her away, she kicked him in the shin twice and tried to elbow him.

Wooten said when a patrol car arrived, she was handcuffed and taken to the Dawson County jail.

As the hearing concluded, Harvey withdrew his motions to disqualify District Attorney Lee Darragh and to suppress evidence.

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Dawson County Fights State Takeover of Schools

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Board of Education has joined a growing number of counties across Georgia determined to oppose a ballot referendum in November that allows state government to seize control of chronically failing schools from local school systems.

State legislators approved the ballot question last year. Now it will be in the hands of the voters.

If passed, the amendment would create an Opportunity School District (OSD) that could seize control of chronically failing schools that do not achieve a 60 on the Career and College Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) for three consecutive years. The OSD would be operated by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) and supervised by a superintendent appointed by the governor.

Last week, Dawson County’s Board unanimously approved a resolution opposing OSDs although none of the county’s schools could be considered chronically failing.

Fetch Your News interviewed School Superintendent Dr. Damon Gibbs Tuesday to explain Dawson County’s opposition

“It’s not that we’re opposed to seeing the state helping chronically failing schools but there are other avenues the state can use,” he said. “We’re opposed to a Constitutional Amendment that takes authority away from local school boards elected by the citizens they serve to create a board that answers to nobody but the governor.”

Gibbs also questioned where the funding would come from. “Right now, the state only provides about 45 percent of the money needed to fund schools. That won’t be enough to fund an OSD.”

The amendment would set the bar at 60 or below on the CCRPI and establish a maximum of 10 years that the state can control a failing school.

But Gibbs said, “The scary part is who is to say the state can’t set the bar at 70 on the CCRPI or extend the maximum number of years. We’ve been working under the CCRPI for three years now and the way it is calculated has changed each year.”

In a recent speech, Deal lashed out against critics of his proposed constitutional amendment. “The General Assembly and I have lost our patience in trusting superintendents and local boards of education,” he said.

Asked about the governor’s comment, Gibbs said, “Our school board cares more about our kids than any Board I’ve been involved with. If I take the governor at face value, it’s a little like a slap in the face but there are some school districts that may need a slap in the face to do what’s right for their kids. I didn’t take it personally.”

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