Judge sentences Tisdale to 12 months on probation

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Nydia Tisdale

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Senior Superior Court Judge Martha Christian sentenced Nydia Tisdale Monday to serve 12 months  on probation, 40 hours of community service and issued a $1,000 fine after Tisdale’s Dec. 4 conviction of misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer.

Tisdale was acquitted of the more serious charges of felony obstruction and trespassing that stemmed from her arrest at a political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in 2014. Tisdale refused to stop videotaping the event and was forcibly removed and arrested by then Dawson County Sheriff’s Captain Tony Wooten.

Tisdale was sentenced under Georgia’s First Offender Act which means that if she successfully completes all the terms of the sentence, she will not have a conviction and the charge will be sealed from her official criminal history.

Tisdale’s attorney Bruce Harvey said his client would appeal the conviction.

“We certainly had hoped that given Nydia’s background, given her support in the community, including the community of journalists who are in the main stream media who understand that any threat to a journalist who provides information to the public about their public officials, would be treated differently than an ordinary misdemeanor,” Harvey said.

Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer referred all questions to District Attorney Lee Darragh.

Harvey presented a long list of character witnesses Monday. Governor Nathan Deal was subpoenaed on Friday to appear on Monday, but Richard Willard, of the Georgia Attorney General’s office, said seeking to have the governor testify on such short notice was “irresponsible” and he made a motion to quash.

Christian granted the motion saying Deal’s testimony would not be “material or relevant.”

Ironically, one witness who did appear on behalf of Tisdale was Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson. He testified that he met Tisdale more than two years ago and had observed her filming several community events. Johnson said he had never witnessed her being disruptive or felt like she was a threat to the public.

When Tisdale took the witness stand, she said, “I meant no harm going to a campaign event that was advertised as public.  I’m sorry this happened. I am asking the court today for leniency. I spent eight hours in county detention on a Saturday night. If the court would consider a sentence of time served, I would greatly appreciate it.”

 

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

 

State presents case against “citizen journalist”

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Nydia Tisdale (left) confers with her defense team during Tuesday’s trial in Dawson County Superior Court.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Prosecutors presented a string of witnesses who testified Tuesday that self-proclaimed citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale refused repeated requests by Burt’s Pumpkin Farm owners to stop filming a political rally on their property in August 2014.

Event coordinator Clint Bearden testified that Tisdale ignored at least five requests to stop filming before she was physically removed by Dawson County Sheriff’s Captain Tony Wooten. Tisdale has been charged with one felony and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of an officer and criminal trespassing after the officer said she elbowed him in the face and kicked him in the shin.

Clint Bearden, an attorney and magistrate judge who is on a short list to become a state superior court judge, testified that he organized the event that included some of Georgia’s top politicians, including Gov. Nathan Deal and then U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue.

Bearden said he and Wooten talked to property owner Johnny Burt who wanted Tisdale to stop filming or leave. He said he asked her 3-4 times to stop and she ignored him. “I thought she was a little rude,” he said. “She said she had permission from the owners, but I told her I had just talked to Johnny Burt and she did not have permission.”

Johnny Burt testified that when Wooten told her to stop filming or leave “she just blurted out ‘No’. So I told him to get her out of here. She was screaming out that my wife told her she could film, and I told her that wasn’t true.”

Kasey Sanders, the Burts’ daughter testified that she was at the entrance when Tisdale arrived and that she never asked for permission. “She just said she was there to film for the governor,” Sanders said.

In an audio recording produced by Brian K. Pritchard of Fetch Your News, Tisdale can be heard screaming for Wooten to identify himself.

Wooten, who was dressed in a black polo shirt with a silver embroidered sheriff’s badge and khakis also had a badge on his belt, his service revolver and a police-issued radio.

Defense attorney Bruce Harvey asked Wooten why he didn’t immediately identify himself. Wooten responded that his first responsibility was the safety of the crowd. “I didn’t know her or what her intentions were,” he said. He said once he got her away from the crowd and she calmed down, he did identify himself.

The trial continues Wednesday in Dawson County Superior Court.

After the jury was dismissed for the day, Judge Martha Christian denied a motion to quash a subpoena for Gov. Nathan Deal who is expected to testify before the end of the week.

The state is expected up wrap up its case Wednesday before the defense begins calling its witnesses.

Closing arguments set Monday in Tisdale trial

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Attorneys Conley Greer (seated) and defense attorney Bruce Harvey talk during court recess.

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.

Nydia Tisdale charged with felony obstruction of an officer.

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.

Judge Martha Christian considers objection from defense counsel.

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.”

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost exhibits a stumbling block for Tisdale defense

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Defense attorney Bruce Harvey

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – After a 12-hour day in Dawson County Superior Court Thursday, the Nydia Tisdale trial came to a shocking and unexpected end when defense attorney Bruce Harvey reported that a stack of exhibits he planned to present were missing from the courtroom.

Senior Superior Court Judge Martha Christian was ready to call the jury back into the courtroom following a late-evening 30-minute break when Harvey approached the bench to inform her that a stack of exhibits he left on the court reporter’s desk were missing.

“Can you say with absolute certainty you left those exhibits with the court reporter on the court reporter’s desk?” she asked. Harvey said he could say that. Christian then directed him and Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer to call their clients and ask if one of them had inadvertently walked away with the exhibits.

Judge Martha Christian

She then called the jury back and dismissed them for the evening shortly after 9 p.m. with instructions to plan on continuing the case next week.

Tisdale was charged with one count of felony obstruction of an officer and two misdemeanor counts of obstruction and criminal trespass at a Republican political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in August 2014.

It was not a good day for the defense. Earlier in the day, the judge quashed a subpoena for Governor Nathan Deal, calling it “unreasonable and obtrusive.” When the state rested its case, Harvey moved for a directed verdict and that was denied.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Trial of Citizen Journalist Tisdale is Continued

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Nydia Tisdale

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The Nydia Tisdale trial scheduled for today (Aug. 7) has been continued due to a conflict with the court calendar.

Tisdale is the self-described citizen journalist who was arrested at a political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in August 2014.  She was charged with felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer.

The arresting officer Captain Tony Wooten, then of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, said Tisdale refused several requests by the property owner to stop filming the event and when he attempted to remove her, she kicked him in the shin and elbowed him in the face.

Tisdale claimed she had the owner’s permission to be there and to film the event. She further claims that Wooten did not identify himself and she didn’t know who he was when he attempted to forcibly remove her from the premises.

Attorney Jeff Talley will prosecute the case for the state and Bruce Harvey is defense counsel.

A new trial date has not bee set at this time.

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

 

Tisdale Motions Hearing Enters Second Day

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The pretrial motions hearing in the case of Georgia vs. Nydia Tisdale on charges of criminal trespass and obstruction of an officer will continue for a second day Wednesday in Dawson County Superior Court starting at noon.

Tisdale, who describes herself as a citizen journalist, was arrested in Aug. 2014 when she refused to stop filming a political rally involving many of the state’s top Republican leaders at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawson County. She is charged with fighting with the arresting officer, Captain Tony Wooten, formerly with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

In Tuesday  testimony, Tisdale said the rally was open to the public and that she obtained permission from Kathy Burt, who along with her husband Johnny Burt owns Burt’s Farm, to film the proceedings.

Cathy Burt testified that Tisdale misled her. “She told me she was there to film for the governor,” Burt said. “She misrepresented herself.” Burt also said when the event organizer, attorney Clint Bearden, told her that the governor had some concerns about her filming the event, “We asked her to quit.”

Bearden said, Tisdale was first approached by the late Mack Burgess, a Republican Party official, and asked to stop filming and she refused. Next, he said, he and Wooten asked her to stop filming but she refused again.

“She told me to talk to Mrs. Burt and I told her I had just come from Mrs. Burt and she doesn’t want you here,” Bearden said. When she refused again, Wooten attempted to escort her from the facility. “That’s when all hell broke loose,” Bearden testified. “She began flailing her arms and legs and still had the camera in her hand.”

Tisdale claims she did not know that Wooten was a law enforcement officer. With her video camera still recording, you can hear Tisdale screaming, “Who are you sir. Please identify yourself.”

Next, Tisdale said, “In a very hostile and aggressive voice,” (Wooten) told me you’re leaving now. He grabbed my hand and lifted me from my chair and pushed me out of the rally.”

Asked by her attorney Bruce Harvey if she was fighting, kicking or elbowing Wooten, she said no. “I wasn’t resisting. I was trying to free myself.”

She said Wooten then led her to the barn area and to leaned her over one of the checkout counters and identified himself. The camera, still recording, shows Wooten telling her, “You resisted me in my lawful duties and now you’re going to jail.”

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.

Defense Attorney Wants D.A. Disqualified from the Nydia Tisdale Trial

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Lee Darragh, District Attorney for the Georgia’s Northeastern Judicial Circuit District, declined to comment specifically on a defense motion asking that he be disqualified in the Nydia Tisdale case and that a Grand Jury indictment be dismissed.

Tisdale faces several criminal charges, including felony obstruction of an officer stemming from a political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawson County in August 2014.

The motion filed by attorney Bruce Harvey states: “District Attorney is paid a “supplement” to his statutory salary by Dawson County. Should Dawson County have to pay a significant settlement/or judgement out of county funds, Mr. Darragh may lose his supplemental salary. He thus has a direct financial interest in the prosecution or settlement of the cause. Such a financial interest is a conflict of interest sufficient to disqualify Mr. Darragh.”

When reached for comment Wednesday, Darragh did not seem overly concerned. His response: “I won’t comment on any specific criminal case.I will just say, in general terms only, that frivolous motions are often filed in criminal cases.”

A Grand Jury indicted Tisdale of felony obstruction of an officer, misdemeanor obstruction of an officer and criminal trespass.

But Harvey also wants that indictment set aside for the same reason.
Tisdale was taken into custody at a political rally when she refused to stop filming the event at the request of the property owner.

Sheriff Billy Carlisle said Tisdale was advised that Johnny Burt, owner of the farm where the rally was held, wanted her to stop recording or leave his property. When she refused, Sheriff’s Capt. Tony Wooten attempted to escort her off the property.

Tisdale reportedly kicked Wooten and fought with him, leading to the criminal trespass and obstruction charges.

Tisdale announced last month that she has filed a federal lawsuit against Wooten and two other deputies involved in her arrest for violations of the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution.

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