Trial begins today for citizen journalist facing felony charges from GOP rally

Self-described citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale records a Forsyth County Commission meeting in 2011. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

If worse comes to worst, Nydia Tisdale could serve five years in prison for the 2014 Dawsonville brouhaha she now refers to as “#PumpkinGate.”

The Roswell-based citizen journalist will be at Dawson County Superior Court this morning for the first day of her trial in which she faces a felony charge of willfully obstructing a law enforcement officer and a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge. 

The charges stem from an August 2014 Republican Party event at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville. Tisdale, who’s known for filming public meetings and posting the mostly raw footage to her YouTube channel, was recording speeches from party bigwigs such as Gov. Nathan Deal and then-Attorney General Sam Olens.

Unbeknownst to her, ahead of the event Republican officials had decided to bar Democratic political “trackers” from the event. After spotting Tisdale filming from the front row and not knowing who she was, a local party official approached her and told her to stop recording. She refused, believing she had permission. Tony Wooten, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, then allegedly frog marched her out of the rally and pinned her to a counter before arresting her. (You can watch the encounter here.)

Tisdale was later slapped with charges for allegedly elbowing and kicking Wooten in the shin and for trespassing at an event held on private property. She’s pleaded not guilty to all charges and set up a PayPal account for people to help cover her trial costs.

Meanwhile, Tisdale filed a federal suit of her own last year alleging she was “assaulted and improperly arrested” by Wooten. She’s seeking at least $550,000 in damages for “significant physical and emotional injuries.” That case is on hold, pending the outcome of the trial being heard this week in Dawson County Superior Court.

Follow along with our coverage of the case this week on myAJC.com.

It’s worth noting that Tisdale has already notched one victory in court. She won a $200,000 settlement in 2015 from the city of Cumming after she was ejected from a public City Council meeting she had been filming in 2012. (Tamar Hallerman)

***

At an LGBT forum on Sunday, Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms offered a lengthy answer to criticism over her purchase of a home at Martha’s Vineyard.

She said she’s frustrated with the narrative that “it has to be about corruption” and said she and her husband, a Home Depot attorney, have worked their tails off to afford the vacation home. And she took a few swings at her runoff opponent, Mary Norwood, in the process.

“I get up every day and I work really, really hard. And I’ve been doing that since I was 15. I don’t have generational wealth. My ancestors in Augusta, Ga. didn’t pass down land to me. So everything that my husband and I have, we’ve worked extremely hard for …”

“The truth of the matter is we saved our money and we bought our house. Period. It’s interesting to me that my opponent doesn’t explain her investment homes she keeps in a trust.”

Watch the link here. (Greg Bluestein)

***

We picked up word over the weekend that Charles Stadtlander, a prominent LGBT advocate, is endorsing Bottoms and joining her campaign as a senior adviser. Stadtlander is a former teacher who who waged an unsuccessful campaign for Atlanta School Board this month. (GB)

***

Mary Norwood did more than accuse Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s campaign of electoral fraud in the 2009 race at an appearance over the summer with the Buckhead Young Republicans. She also dished on her campaign strategy. Here’s a snippet:

The City of Atlanta is 8 percent Republican and 80 percent Democrat. So you can’t win if you are a Republican label. And that’s what they tried to do to me in 2009. It was messy and miserable. And in 2013, we had a much better strategy. And I get support from both sides, I have always been a local person – not a party person – and I have wonderful support and friends on both sides of the aisle and I want to keep that.

She said she always polled at about 20-25 percent of the black vote, but when it jumped to 30 percent during her 2013 race, she had a theory:

“The reason it did because two types of African Americans went and voted for me: One was that I voted for her in ‘09, I thought it was stolen so I will vote now. The other was I didn’t vote for her in 09, I’m annoyed that I didn’t, and I am going to go vote for her now. So I had tremendous support all over the city when I came back in ‘13 – even going up against an incumbent.”

(GB)

***

It turns out Black Friday this year wasn’t only about deals on televisions and pajama sets. USA Today reports that many Americans also raced to buy guns, with the FBI posting a new single day record for new background checks. The law enforcement agency fielded more than 200,000 requests that day, according to the paper. (TH).

***

Our colleague Brad Schrade reports that early voting kicks off today for a host of legislative and municipal runoff elections,  including races for Atlanta mayor and council seats and the Fulton County Commission chairmanship. Election Day is Dec. 5. (TH).

Reader Comments 2

3 comments
gotham77
gotham77

Tony Wooten wasn't enforcing the law. He was bullying someone weaker than him because he disagreed with [what he assumed were] her politics.

Richard Thornton
Richard Thornton

I live near where this outrageous treatment of Nydia Tisdale occurred.  I want to emphasize that everything that DS wrote below is true, plus add this information.  In advance, Ms. Tysdale asked the co-owner of Burt's Pumpkin Farm, if she could film the public political event.  Mrs. Burt said yes. Also,  Georgia Attorney General, Sam Olens, made a point of walking up to Tisdale at the beginning of the meeting, welcoming her to the event and passing pleasantries.  There was absolutely no way that anyone could have logically interpreted her as a "Democratic/Marxist/Librul spy." 


She was treated roughly because she was an intelligent looking woman with a slim figure, so the hicks, running the program from behind the scenes, and the off-duty sheriff's deputy assumed that she was an outsider - trouble maker.  Doubt if that will be said in court, though.

DS
DS

You forgot the part about how this event was open to the public. 

And you also forgot the part about how another journalist, Brian Pritchard (fetchyournews.com) was allowed to keep taking pictures and recording audio while Tisdale was dragged out.

And there was this:

“Let me be possibly politically incorrect here a second,” Olens told the crowd. “If we stand for anything as a party, what are we afraid of with the lady having a camera, filming us? What are we saying here that shouldn’t be on film? What message are we sending? That because it’s private property, they shouldn’t be filming? What is the harm? Who’s the winner in the long run? Not a good move,” the attorney general finished.

And this:

Linda Clary Umberger, chairman of the Dawson County GOP, followed the citizen journalist and the officer to an outbuilding. “I watched as a woman was bent over the counter on her face, with an officer over her,” Umberger said. “If I had been her, I would have elbowed him in the face, too.

“I was so upset at how they handled it – I walked out,” said the county GOP chairman.

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