After her first motion for appeal was denied in Dawson County last summer, self-described citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale has filed a motion in the Court of Appeals of Georgia for a new trial to dispute her conviction from a 2014 altercation at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm.
The Court of Appeals of Georgia will hear oral arguments in the appeal in October.
On Aug. 23, 2014, Tisdale was arrested at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville after she allegedly refused to stop videoing a Republican Party rally attended by statewide officeholders including Gov. Nathan Deal, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. She was removed from the rally by then-Dawson County Sheriff's Capt. Tony Wooten and held in the Burt’s barn until two other officers arrived to take her to jail.
In the appeal filed on June 10, Tisdale and her attorneys request her misdemeanor obstruction conviction “be reversed and remanded for a new trial or an order of acquittal.”
A Dawson County jury unanimously found Tisdale guilty of a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of an officer for resisting arrest on Dec. 4, 2017. She was found not guilty of the felony charge of obstruction of an officer as well as the misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass.
Tisdale was sentenced to serve 12 months of probation, 40 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.
She was sentenced under Georgia’s First Time Offenders Act, which means if she completed her sentence without issue, her record would be cleared. Tisdale was also not prohibited from continuing to enter public buildings and filming events for her website, aboutforsyth.com.
Barely after a month after she was sentenced, Tisdale filed her first motion for a new trial on Jan. 8, 2018, citing there was “insufficient evidence to support the verdict” and “the trial court committed errors of law,” warranting a new trial. The motion was denied on Aug. 22, 2018.
On the four year anniversary of what is described as “PumpkinGate” on Tisdale’s social media, she went to Twitter stating she would be taking her case to the Court of Appeals of Georgia.
The June 10 motion claims three errors in the 2017 trial: the evidence was “insufficient to convict,” the trial court “erred by denying the motion in arrest of judgment to the obstruction indictment” and “erred by instructing the jury that Tisdale could be guilty of misdemeanor obstruction even if she reasonably believed the officer’s request that she leave was unlawful.”
The motion continues by arguing that Tisdale was given “insufficient time to comply” with her removal from the event and that her failure to comply immediately was not a crime and that Wooten never gave his name and failed to provide proper identification.
Tisdale is being represented by attorneys Andrew Fleischman and Noah Pines of the firm Ross & Pines LLC, the same firm who represented her in last year’s motion.
In August 2015, Tisdale filed a notice stating that a lawsuit against the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and Dawson County Board of Commissioners was looming unless a settlement could be reached. In the notice, Tisdale sought $550,000 and a public apology from Wooten, who she claimed made inappropriate contact of a sexual nature with her while attempting to take her into custody.
In November 2015, Tisdale was indicted by a grand jury on one misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing, one misdemeanor charge of obstruction of an officer and a felony charge of obstruction of an officer. She pleaded not guilty of all three counts in March 2016.
Tisdale went to trial in November 2017 where she maintained she had permission from the property owners to film at the rally and that she was unlawfully arrested and assaulted by Wooten, who she said did not identify himself until reinforcements showed up at the farm.
The charges state that Tisdale was tried for allegedly kicking Wooten in the shins and elbowing him in the face while being lawfully escorted off the property. She was also charged with hindering Wooten, who was representing the property owners, by refusing to leave private property when he asked and remaining on farm co-owner Johnny Burt’s land after receiving notice to leave.
“I’m looking forward to having my day in court,” said Tisdale. “I’m very delighted to have the team Andrew Fleischman and Noah Pines of Ross and Pines representing me pro bono on this appeal.”
In 2015, a $200,000 settlement was reached in a federal lawsuit Tisdale had filed against the city of Cumming over reported free speech and search and seizure violations.
The lawsuit stemmed from an April 2012 incident in which Tisdale was directed by Mayor H. Ford Gravitt to stop filming during a Cumming City Council meeting and asked to leave. She later returned and continued filming with a different device.
The same day as the 2012 incident, Georgia’s revised Open Meetings Act had gone into effect.