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First witnesses testify in Tisdale trial
Judge upholds subpoena served to Gov. Deal
Nydia Tisdale
Nydia Tisdale consults with her defense team on Nov. 27. From left: attorney Bruce Harvey, Tisdale, attorney Catherine Bernard and investigator Robin Martinelli. - photo by Allie Dean

DAWSON COUNTY - A motion to quash a subpoena served to Gov. Nathan Deal by the defense team for citizen journalist and Roswell resident Nydia Tisdale was denied by Senior Superior Court Judge Martha Christian mid-trial Wednesday night.

Tisdale is being tried on a felony obstruction charge for resisting arrest by then-Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Tony Wooten, who removed her from a 2014 political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville.

She faces additional misdemeanor charges of obstruction of an officer and trespassing.

Gov. Nathan Deal was served the subpoena by Tisdale’s defense on Monday; service was accepted by Deal’s executive legal assistant Rhonda Barnes.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer filed a motion to quash the subpoena on Wednesday morning on behalf of Deal.

Greer said a “definite, definite” time would need to be set for Deal to attend the trial.

Tisdale’s attorney Catherine Bernard said that could be arranged, and that the defense team expects Deal to provide useful insight because he was physically present during the events, allegedly seated within eight to 10 feet of where Tisdale was sitting when she was removed from the rally by Wooten.

Christian decided to uphold the subpoena despite her hesitancy over the governor having such late notice.

Deal was one among many other state officials to be served by the defense.

Robin Martinelli, an investigator and process server working with Tisdale’s defense team, said that officials who were served subpoenas either personally or through their council include State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods, State Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler and former Attorney General Sam Olens.

She said that an attempt was also made to serve U.S. Senator David Perdue and U.S. Representative Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), but that the two are currently in Washington, D.C.

Greer told the jury in his opening statements that he intends to call eight people to testify: Clint Bearden, Johnny Burt, Casey Sanders, Tony Wooten, Kathy Burt, Dan Pichon, Gerald Swafford and Morris “Pepper” Pettit.

Witnesses called to testify Wednesday included Clint Bearden, Johnny Burt, Casey Sanders and Tony Wooten. Bearden and Wooten were retained for further questioning while Burt and his daughter Sanders were dismissed.

Bearden, a private practice attorney in Blue Ridge and associate magistrate judge in Dawson County, is one of three finalists for the fifth Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court judgeship serving Dawson and Hall counties.

Bearden helped organize the rally and served as emcee. He worked at the farm as a teenager and previously represented the Burts in court.

The prosecution played video clips filmed by Tisdale at the rally on Aug. 24, 2014, where she was arrested, and asked Bearden questions pertaining to what could be seen on the video.

Bearden said he asked Tisdale to stop filming multiple times before Wooten got involved.

He said that Wooten helped Tisdale to her feet, when she began screaming and resisting arrest.

The prosecution also played the entirety of a 911 phone call made by Casey Sanders, in which she told the operator that Tisdale was resisting arrest and that she feared for Wooten’s safety.

Wooten stated that Tisdale was uncooperative when he escorted her from the rally.

”She was trying to resist and get away the entire time,” Wooten said. “I was kicked in the shins a couple times ... I was also struck with an elbow in the face.”

In 2015, Tisdale was awarded $200,000 in a settlement by the City of Cumming, where she was thrown, illegally, from a city council meeting that she was attempting to record.