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Jury deliberating criminal case against citizen journalist
Nydia Tisdale
Nydia Tisdale confers with her defense team Monday morning at the start of the criminal trial against her. Tisdale, who calls herself a citizen journalist, was forcibly removed from a political rally at a local pumpkin farm in 2014 and subsequently arrested on charges of trespassing and obstruction of an officer. - photo by FCN regional staff

DAWSON COUNTY - Closing statements concluded this morning in the criminal case against self-proclaimed citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale.

Tisdale, 54, was arrested Aug. 23, 2014 at a GOP rally held at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville.

She was indicted by a grand jury and charged with one felony count of obstruction of an officer and misdemeanor counts of obstruction of an officer and criminal trespass after she was forcibly removed from the rally by then-Capt. Tony Wooten of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

The charges state that Tisdale is being tried for allegedly kicking Wooten in the shins and elbowing him in the face while being lawfully escorted off the property, hindering Wooten by refusing to leave private property when asked by Wooten, who represented the property owners, and remaining on Johnny Burt’s land after receiving notice to leave.

Witnesses in the case have testified that Tisdale was asked twice to stop filming the political candidates who were speaking at the rally before Wooten approached her and forcibly escorted her into a nearby barn to await assistance from other deputies.

Tisdale alleges that she did not know Wooten’s name or that he was a police officer when the incident occurred. She has also stated she was never asked to leave the farm before she was forcibly removed.

As of 12:21 p.m. today, the case has been sent to the jury.

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens was recalled to the stand Monday morning to address statements made Friday by local attorney Clint Bearden, who emceed the rally.

On the video recording that Tisdale made of  the event, Hudgens says that he thought he was going to “absolutely puke” listening to then-U.S. Senatorial candidate Michelle Nunn.

He is then seen pointing in Tisdale’s direction, saying “I don’t know why you’re filming, but yes I said that.”

On Friday, Bearden testified that Hudgens was upset about someone videotaping him.

“Mr. Hudgens kept saying he wanted to get the video tape,” Bearden said, recalling a conversation he, Wooten and others had with Hudgens and his wife as Hudgens prepared to leave for another event.

When recalled to the stand, defense attorney Catherine Bernard asked Hudgens if he recalled saying those things or talking to Bearden on his way out.

Hudgens said he did not, though he recalled talking to an officer, Tony Wooten.

“It did not bother me at all that she was video taping,” Hudgens said, echoing statements he made on the stand Thursday.

In closing arguments, Bernard said no one would ever know who initiated the events that led to Tisdale’s arrest.

She stated that the case was about notice, something the defense argues Tisdale wasn’t given.

Bernard explained that no signs were put up and no announcements were made prohibiting filming at the rally, and that Tisdale was under the impression she had permission from farm co-owner Kathy Burt to film.

She also argued that Tisdale was never asked to leave if she did not stop filming.

Also on Tisdale’s defense team, attorney Bruce Harvey spoke to the jury about Tisdale’s intentions.

“It’s been said many times that freedom and democracy wither and die in the dark,” Harvey said. “But freedom and democracy thrive and grow in the light. Not one single person who is running for office, who came to you and sat on the witness stand, said ‘we’re in favor of the dark.’”

Tisdale, Harvey said, attended the public rally to grow democracy and freedom.

“That’s what Nydia Tisdale does every single day,” Harvey said. 

Harvey also reinforced the defense’s stance that Wooten did not identify himself to Tisdale.

"She continues to say 'who are you sir,' 'identify yourself,' even when she is bent over a counter with her head pressed down on the counter and her arms behind her back," Harvey said. 

 Assistant District Attorney and prosecutor Conley Greer had the final words in the case, telling the jury that the case is not about notice but about property.

“What this was is a political rally open to the public on private property,” Greer said.

He also argued that Tisdale knew Wooten was a law enforcement officer from the way he was dressed, and said that on Tisdale’s recording she is heard asking Wooten “what is your name sir?” Not, Greer said, “who are you?”

“The state has proven her guilty each and every count beyond a reasonable doubt,” Greer said. “She did this. Accountability starts there by holding her accountable.”