THREE YEARS AGO TODAY
August 23, 2014
I was so looking forward to attending and video recording the Dawsonville Rally hosted by Governor Nathan Deal, and held at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm, a popular tourist attraction located in Dawson County, Georgia.
I blogged, tweeted, and posted the open-to-the-public, campaign rally prolifically on AboutForsyth.com, Twitter and Facebook, and tagged the candidates slated to speak.
It was a wonderful, warm, sunny, sultry Saturday. I wore a full-length floral sundress, high-heeled strappy sandals, and a string of pearls. I left my Roswell home extra early to make the long, scenic drive to Dawson. I was one of the first guests to arrive.
The gracious Southern lady greeted me at the entrance to the barn and offered me pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread. She introduced herself as the property owner, and I introduced myself as a citizen journalist who video records public events.
The video of the rally would be on YouTube within a week, I explained, if she would like to watch. She replied, Okay.
I walked in and around the big barn with the Great Pumpkin and yard signs, traversed the graveled parking lot, and meandered the open-air gourd shed with Sony camcorder in hand, taking several pre-shots of the venue to begin the #nydeo.
After the rally was kicked off, two unknown, unidentified and unauthorized men — Mack Burgess and Clint Bearden — separately claimed I could not record. I explained that I already had permission from the property owner and a couple candidates, and to please confirm.
While video recording the stump speeches, I was blindsided from behind, frogmarched out of the rally, forced into the barn, bent over the checkout counter, and frotteurized by an unidentified man pushing his crotch into my buttocks.
I begged the man to identify himself, repeatedly asking: Who are you? Identify yourself. What is your name, sir? to no avail.
My camera continued recording as I attempted to capture an image of my attacker.
While on my haunches, my assailant grabbed my lens hood, which flew down the counter. He yanked my directional microphone, which did not detach from my camera. He pulled my viewfinder, and the camera slid down the counter.
At no time did I kick, nor hit, nor slap, nor elbow, nor harm in any way the man who grabbed and twisted my arm behind my back, slammed me against a countertop, and pushed his body into my body, leaving my body badly bruised and battered.
Despite some media reports, I did not hit, nor try to hit my attacker with my $1,500 Sony prosumer camcorder, a gift from my husband.
I did not ask any candidate any questions during the rally.
The property owners never asked me to leave the rally or the property.
When the sound of tires rolling across the graveled drive announced the arrival of official vehicles, the mystery man pulled his body away from mine, but still held my arms behind my back.
After two uniformed deputies arrived, and were within earshot inside the barn, the unidentified man finally answered my repeated pleas: Who are you?
He responded: Captain Tony Wooten. You are under arrest.
I was arrested without a stated reason by three Dawson County Sheriff’s deputies: Captain Tony Wooten, Corporal Russell Smith, and Corporal Laura Bishop.
My hands were cuffed behind my back, I was placed in the back seat of a sheriff’s vehicle and driven to the detention center. No one informed me my rights.
My camera, camera bag, and purse were searched without my consent. My high-heeled, strappy sandals and jewelry were removed from my person.
I hated having my wedding band removed from my ring finger because it provided some comfort after being sexually violated by a complete stranger.
Only one man on this planet has the legal right to make physical contact with my buttocks, and that man is my husband — not Tony Wooten.
I was locked inside a concrete jail cell, and later booked in.
I bonded out around midnight. The bondsman drove me back to Burt’s Farm to retrieve my car. She guided me back to GA Highway 400, so I could find my way home.
I tried to keep a stiff upper lip while in jail, but my tears flowed uncontrollably in the dark, in the car, on the drive home. I cried often at unexpected times, and at unexpected places.
Tears are still triggered by recounting this traumatic attack.
My camera was confiscated for six days. Following is the complete footage that remained when my camera was returned. There is an unexplained gap that omits my six, blood-curdling screams for Help! during my assault.
For over a fortnight, I could barely eat, drink, sleep, or walk.
The excruciating pain in my pelvic region prompted x-rays to determine the damage. Two parallel, purple-and-blue lines of bruises marked my pelvis where the countertop did not budge against the weight of the man overpowering and cocooning me.
All you gotta do is be still, he told me.
Three years hence, I am still facing bogus charges of criminal trespass (misdemeanor), and obstruction of an officer (both felony and misdemeanor).
My mother’s ninetieth birthday was missed this year because I was commanded to be in court, at a calendar call, or my bond would be forfeited, and a bench warrant for my arrest would be issued.
My life has been arrested for the past three years.
The prosecution offered a plea deal after a pre-trial motions hearing in October 2016. I declined.
An offer to drop the criminal charges in exchange for dropping my civil-rights lawsuit — filed in federal court against three deputies who unlawfully arrested me — was proffered to my counsel in June 2017. Again, I refused.
I was not doing anything illegal, immoral, unethical, or untoward.
If this abuse could happen to a slight lady sitting silently holding a video camera at an advertised, open-to-the-public, campaign rally — in the presence of the Governor of Georgia, the First Lady of Georgia, State Attorney General, future U.S. Senator, U.S. Congressman, Insurance Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner, Labor Commissioner, future School Superintendent, State Senator, and Mayor — who all swore an oath to uphold the United States Constitution and the Georgia Constitution — then what in the world is happening in Dawson County when no one is watching?
The case coined #PumpkinGate, and styled State of Georgia v. Nydia Tisdale — is so much bigger than me.
I will continue to defend my constitutional rights because these rights belong to all citizens. If we do not protect our rights, then our rights will eventually erode away.
I prefer to exercise my rights, rather than to waive my rights.
No, thank you, I will not plea, nor withdraw my case.
Please consider contacting the prosecutors — DA Lee Darragh and ADA Conley Greer — and respectfully request that the charges against citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale be dropped.
Thank you in advance.
Dawson County District Attorney (DA) Lee Darragh
Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Conley Greer
(706) 344-3620 phone
(706) 344-3622 fax
Dawson County District Attorney’s Office
25 Justice Way, Suite 3321
Dawsonville, GA 30534
#PumpkinGate — DCSO Capt. Tony Wooten assaults Citizen Journalist Nydia Tisdale 08/23/14
Nydeo by Nydia Tisdale for AboutForsyth.com.
Please $upport nydeos via PayPal at NydiaTisdale@hotmail.com.