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Why I won’t drop my civil rights lawsuit in exchange for my charges to be dropped in #PumpkinGate case

Posted: August 23rd, 2017, 10:34 pm
by Nydia Tisdale


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, 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
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NYDEO: Dawson County, Georgia, District Attorney Lee Darragh hopes for no opposition in 2018

Posted: August 24th, 2017, 2:30 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

Dawson County District Attorney Lee Darragh:

I thought I’d start out—I’d tell you a little bit about myself in a little bit more detail.

Uh, I went to law school at the University of Georgia, uh, graduated in, uh, 1978 there.

Started in private practice in Savannah for about a year, and joined the prosecutor’s office, um, when I found out that my wife was pregnant, and we were going to have our first child. Uh, worked there until 1985.

Went into private practice again for a very short time, about nine months after that, uh, stint in Savannah—but then came and joined the District Attorney’s Office, uh, in the Northeastern Judicial Circuit—which at that time was Hall County and Dawson County, as well as Lumpkin [County] and White [County], uh, in 1986.

So, I started there in May 1 of 1986. So, I’ve been, uh, in the office now for 29 years, um, in the District Attorney’s Office.

Uh, I was the Chief Assistant District Attorney, uh, for, uh, Andrew Fuller, who is now a Superior Court Judge.

Um, for a time I was Chief Assistant DA for his successor, Lydia Sartain, and also Chief Trial Assistant DA during the latter part of her term.

Uh, and, uh, then I was the Chief Assistant DA for Jason Deal, who is now a Superior Court Judge. When he got appointed judge, I got the opportunity to become the District Attorney.

I was appointed, uh, by Governor [Sonny] Perdue in August of 2005.

Stood for election in 2006, and, um, actually had to run a campaign and, uh, that was a most interesting time in my life—let me tell you that, um, but, uh, was successful then, and have not had the opposition in ‘10, ‘14, and hopefully not again in ‘18.

#PumpkinGate prosecutor: Lee Darragh
Dawson County District Attorney (DA)

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

“Nydeo” by Nydia Tisdale for
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Dawson County, Georgia, District Attorney Lee Darragh

Posted: August 24th, 2017, 3:00 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

District Attorney Lee Darragh

“The Office of the District Attorney for Dawson County pledges to seek justice with fairness and integrity for all of Dawson County’s citizens.” – District Attorney Lee Darragh

Lee Darragh was appointed by Governor Sonny Perdue to the Office of District Attorney for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit - Hall County and Dawson County - and took office on August 31, 2005. The voters of the circuit then elected him to his first full term as D.A. beginning January of 2007. Darragh has been a felony prosecutor since 1979. Prior to becoming District Attorney (DA), Darragh served as Chief Assistant DA for Former DAs Jason Deal and C. Andrew Fuller, and as an Assistant DA for former DA Bruce Udolph. He also served as both Chief Assistant DA and Chief Trial Assistant DA for former DA Lydia Sartain.

Darragh received his Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice in 1974 from Georgia State University and his Law degree in 1978 from the University of Georgia School of Law. He spent his first year out of law school in private practice, afterwards joining the DA's Office in Savannah, GA as a felony prosecutor for 6 years. Darragh began prosecuting in this judicial circuit in May of 1986.

Darragh is a member of the Georgia District Attorneys' Association, the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation, the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. He represents the State of Georgia as a director on the Board of the National District Attorney's Association. He is also professionally involved locally as a member of the Board of Directors of the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children, as a member of the Hall County Commission on Children and Families, and the Child Abuse Protocol Committee. He is also an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville, and of the Republican Party in both Hall and Dawson Counties.

Lee and his wife Marlyn were married in 1973, and have lived in Hall County since 1988. They have two daughters and a son, all of whom graduated from North Hall High School, and have one grandchild. The Darraghs are active members of Lakewood Baptist Church.

Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson: Law Enforcement affects all of Dawson County

Posted: August 24th, 2017, 7:00 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

[Then-candidate-and-now] Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson:

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re electing a Sheriff. You’re electing someone to enforce the laws of this County, to treat people right, to treat people fair, to treat people with respect and dignity.

Ladies and gentlemen, the liability is far too great for us to risk. And what I mean by that is simply this. In today’s society — it’s a very litigious society — and as Law Enforcement Officers, we have certain duties that we, that we execute.

Any time that we put our hands on someone, we have seized them in the eyes of the Court. We have to justify that seizure.

And that means that we — one, hopefully, we’re mature; hopefully, we’re making the good decisions; hopefully, we’re making them with probable cause; hopefully, we’re making them in accordance with state law, with case law. It touches that.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re tasked with finding a Sheriff. Someone to lead your department for the next four years.

I’m all about community programs. I believe them. I support them.

But there’s a bigger picture at play here.

This is Law Enforcement that affects the entire County as a whole.

Jeff Johnson beat Tony Wooten in the runoff race for Sheriff on July 26, 2016.

Tony Wooten resigned from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office effective August 23, 2016.

“Nydeo” by Nydia Tisdale for
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KSU President and former Attorney General Sam Olens speaks out against arrest of citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale

Posted: August 24th, 2017, 9:00 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

CAROLYN CARLSON: Now to officially welcome you to Kennesaw [State University], I want to introduce our President, um, Sam Olens. Sam, as many of you know, is a long-time supporter of transparency in government dating back to his days as Chairman of the Cobb County Commission, and as Attorney General for the State of Georgia, and, in fact, the Georgia First Amendment Foundation has granted him a few years ago our highest honor, the Weltner Freedom of Information award for his work on Georgia’s Open Records and Open Meetings law. So, we’re happy to have you with here.

SAM OLENS: Thank you. So, it's a pleasure to be here, um, do you have me in the right focus, uh, Nydia? [LAUGHTER.]

NYDIA TISDALE: You’re perfect. Thank you, President Olens.

SAM OLENS: Could you make me tall? thin? Go for it. [LAUGHTER.] So it’s a pleasure to be here. It’s a pleasure to have you at KSU ... So, it’s my pleasure, look forward to you all having a great program.

I was at Nydia’s infamous arrest. As Nydia would tell you, I was the only elected official who actually defended her, uh, because you don’t arrest the Press for videoing a group gathering. [APPLAUSE.]

NYDIA TISDALE: And, thank you.

SAM OLENS: That’s just a fact. You don’t do it. That wasn’t appropriate. Uh, and I’m sure I’m going to see this as it gets closer to her trial. [LAUGHTER.] Thank you all very, very much. Thank you.

“Nydeo” by Nydia Tisdale for
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Formal Arraignment of citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale in Superior Court of Dawson County, Georgia

Posted: August 26th, 2017, 10:26 am
by Nydia Tisdale

The formal arraignment of Nydia Tisdale on felony charge of obstruction of an officer, and misdemeanor charges of obstruction of an officer and criminal trespass — for exercising her First Amendment rights of Free Speech and Free Press while video recording an advertised, open-to-the-public, campaign rally with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm — in Dawson County Court on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. VIDEO by Doug Davis.

• Honorable Judge Bonnie C. Oliver
• Dawson County District Attorney Lee Darragh
• Senior Assistant District Attorney at ‎Northeastern Judicial Circuit Conley Greer
• Senior Assistant District Attorney at Northeastern Judicial Circuit Burke Olivia Doherty
• Criminal Defense Attorney Jeffery C. Talley
• Criminal Defense Attorney Bruce S. Harvey

Please note, Nydia rhymes with Lydia; Tis-dale sounds like: ‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Please $upport Nydia Tisdale via PayPal at


Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, AG Sam Olens, State Senator Steve Gooch, Congressman Doug Collins, Sen. David Perdue

Posted: August 26th, 2017, 12:21 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

Clint Garry Bearden (on mic) kicks off the rally for Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (wearing white shirt at right).

Then-Attorney General Sam Olens (in blue shirt) and State Senator Steve Gooch (in red shirt) stand next to Gov. Deal.

Congressman Doug Collins (in green shirt) stands in the background, facing away.

Then-candidate for U.S. Senate, and now-U.S. Senator David Perdue arrives at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm on August 23, 2014.


Nydeo stills by Nydia Tisdale.

City of Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt violates citizen’s constitutional rights

Posted: August 27th, 2017, 4:00 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

City of Cumming Council and Mayor H. Ford Gravitt meeting on April 17, 2012.

Georgia Sunshine Law O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1. Open and Public Meetings Act. The public at all times shall be afforded access to meetings declared open to the public. Visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.

Attorney General Sam Olens Prevails in Lawsuit Defending Open Government, August 26, 2014.

Morris “Pepper” Pettit — catalyst in chain of unfortunate #PumpkinGate events

Posted: August 29th, 2017, 9:00 am
by Nydia Tisdale

Morris “Pepper” Pettit (left, in light jacket) appears as a witness in my arrest report.


(Left to right) Scott Yochum, Morris “Pepper” Pettit, then-Dawson News reporter Michele Hester (back to camera), and then-candidate for Dawson County sheriff (and my attacker) Henry Anthony “Tony” Wooten congregate before a campaign debate on July 12, 2016.

Nydeo stills by Nydia Tisdale.
Mug shot by Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

State of Georgia v. Nydia Tisdale — Notice of Calendar Call on Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Posted: September 4th, 2017, 2:00 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

Nydia Tisdale calendar call in Dawson County Superior Court 09/07/17

Posted: September 7th, 2017, 11:55 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

Hon. Judge Jason J. Deal presides over the calendar call for Dawson County Superior Court in Dawsonville, Georgia on Thursday, September 7, 2017.

Defendant Nydia Tisdale responds.

Criminal defense attorney Bruce Harvey has conflict.

Assistant district attorney Conley Greer is ready to prosecute.

District attorney Lee Darragh pursues prosecution of citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale for video recording stump speeches at a campaign rally for Georgia Governor Nathan Deal at Burt's Pumpkin Farm on Saturday, August 23, 2014.

Judge Jason Deal is the son of Governor Nathan Deal.


LOCATION: Dawson County Government Center, 25 Justice Way, Dawsonville GA 30534
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (whispers): Uh, you guys can’t —
JUDGE JASON DEAL: Alright, we’re going to start off with the misdemeanor calendar.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: — excuse me — you can’t record in here.
JUDGE DEAL: Would you please answer with your name —
JUDGE DEAL: — here.
DOUG DAVIS: I have a Rule 22, okay.
JUDGE DEAL: Tell me if you’re ready for trial.
Alright, for all of those that are on this calendar that I just called the, uh, negotiated plea deadline date is October 2. Now, the remaining cases on the calendar, your negotiated plea deadline passed in July. So, I assume those are going to be open-ended pleas since the negotiated plea deadline has passed; but, nevertheless, if you’re going to close your case prior to trial, you need to plan on October 2, and, uh, with that, if you’re here on the misdemeanor calendar and you’ve already answered the calendar and that’s all you have for the court today, I’m going to excuse you. If you are represented by the public defender, you might want to hang out in the hallway for just a minute until, uh, Mr. [David] Turk can step out there and talk to you. I need to call another calendar first and let him answer that and then he can step out and talk to you. Okay. But if you want to go ahead and step out, if you’ve already answered the calendar, you’re free to go.
Alright, now we’ll go to the felony calendar.
Nydia Tisdale.
ADA CONLEY GREER: We’re ready, Judge.
NYDIA TISDALE: Good morning, Your Honor.
ADA GREER: Mr. [Bruce] Harvey filed a conflict letter. He has requested a continuance from this calendar call and it be reset on another calendar call. The case was previously set for trial in August. Mr. Harvey, because of his trial schedule is substantial, had older conflicts, so it was continued from there. We’re still waiting on a trial date. We’re working with Mr. Harvey to try to accommodate that. His schedule is — like I said Judge — I’m not undermining, but substantial, his conflicts.
JUDGE DEAL (to Mr. Greer): Alright.
JUDGE DEAL (to Ms. Tisdale): Alright, Ms. Tisdale, I’m going to leave it on the calendar for now because this is just for calendar call. I know your attorney filed a motion to continue the calendar call, but I don’t know if that’s necessary. We’ll leave it on the calendar. He can file a motion for continuance if he has a conflict.
JUDGE DEAL (to Mr. Greer): I want to encourage, Mr. Greer, you and Mr. Harvey, ya’ll get together and see October 2 — I’m going to have another judge here, senior judge, and that might be a perfect time to try and try Ms. Tisdale’s case if Mr. Harvey if available that week.
ADA GREER: Well I’m at — I’m literally at his pleasure when it comes to trying this case.
JUDGE DEAL: Alright, I’m going to ask my office to contact him, and Ms. Tisdale, if you’ll contact him as well, um, he may very well have older cases that take precedence, but if he doesn’t have trial that week, then that might be a good time to try to get this case resolved by trial.
NYDIA TISDALE: Thank you, Your Honor.
JUDGE DEAL: Alright.
NYDIA TISDALE takes her leave.

Video by Doug Davis and edited by Nydia Tisdale for

Dawson County Superior Court Judge Jason J. Deal

Posted: September 10th, 2017, 9:00 am
by Nydia Tisdale

Honorable Judge Jason J. Deal calls the calendar in Dawson County Superior Court on Thursday, September 7, 2017.


Video stills by Nydia Tisdale.

Media coverage of #PumpkinGate: Videographer attacked at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm, Dawson County, Dawsonville, Georgia

Posted: October 9th, 2017, 3:30 pm
by Nydia Tisdale
Video Journalist Forcefully Removed From Republican Meeting!, by Brian Pritchard, Fetch Your News, August 24, 2014, updated September 5, 2014.

Terror at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm: Gasp! Someone is recording the speeches!, by Bill Simon, Political Vine, August 27, 2014.

VIDEO: Journalist Roughed Up And Removed From Georgia GOP Event, by Daniel Strauss, Talking Points Memo, September 1, 2014.

Journalist roughed up at Georgia GOP event, by Ed Schultz, The Ed Show, MSNBC, September 3, 2014.

OFF-DUTY DEPUTY ATTACKS VIDEOGRAPHER FILMING PUBLIC EVENT, Ralston Law Attorney Instigates Attack, Web Sites Changed to Hide Connections; Sheriff’s Office Returns Confiscated Video with Gap Eliminating Screams for Help, by Garland Favorito, Voter GA, September 16, 2014.

The Case of the Six Missing Screams, by Jim Galloway, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 23, 2014.

Questionable timing, politics surround case against citizen journalist, by Jodie Fleischer, WSB-TV, March 21, 2016, nominated for 2017 Southeast Emmy Award.


Where Georgia is ahead of the curve: The privatization of political rallies
, by Jim Galloway, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 21, 2016.

How one woman’s ‘hyperlocal C-Span’ brings transparency to politics in Georgia, by By Timothy Pratt, Columbia Journalism Review, April 28, 2016.

Crusader with a camera: Nydia Tisdale has been flipped off, called a Nazi, even arrested for recording public officials, by Max Blau, Atlanta Magazine, September 2016.

Georgia woman wages single-handed fight for open government
, by Kate Brumback, The Associated Press, February 24, 2017.

Citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale keeps local government honest, Videographer strives to create public record through recordings, by Kathleen Sturgeon, North Fulton Herald Newspapers, March 29, 2017.

Nydia Tisdale trial specially set for Nov. 27-30, 2017 before Hon. Senior Judge Martha Christian

Posted: November 14th, 2017, 8:00 am
by Nydia Tisdale

State of Georgia v. Nydia Pinzón Tisdale, Case Number 2015-CR-0556, Dawson County Superior Court.

Nydia rhymes with Lydia; Pin-ZONE stresses last syllable; TIS-dale sounds like ‘Tis the season to be jolly.

The Pinzón brothers sailed the seas with Christopher Columbus in the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María.